FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE


Opinion Number: 98-26
Date of Issue: November 10, 1998

 

JUDGE'S SERVICE ON THE MAYOR'S VICTIMS' ASSISTANCE ADVISORY COUNCIL, AND JUDGE'S SERVICE IN A LEADERSHIP POSITION.

ISSUE

Whether a county judge may serve on The Mayor's Victims' Assistance Advisory Council? If so, may the judge serve in a leadership capacity?
ANSWER: YES.

FACTS

The inquiring judge asks whether it is permissible to serve on The Mayor's Victims' Assistance Advisory Council (VAAC). If so, the judge asks whether it would be appropriate to take a leadership role in the council?


DISCUSSION

The VAAC is a governmental commission, and its members are appointed by the mayor. The mission of the VAAC "is to ensure and enhance the rights of crime victims by providing a forum for the public and private community to work together for the development and implementation of effective programs in education, prevention and intervention."

Canon 4D states in part that a judge may serve as a member, officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Canon 5C(2) provides that a judge may accept appointment to a governmental commission or committee that is concerned with the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. Previous Committee opinions have found it proper for a judge to serve on advisory councils. The Committee has given approval for judges to serve on an alcohol, drug abuse, and mental health district planning council (Ops. 88-24, 88-30); on the board of directors of a DUI countermeasure school (Op. 93-23); in an advisory capacity on the regional juvenile detention center's community advisory board (Op. 94-04); and as a member of a district juvenile justice board (Op. 94-31).

In Opinion 97-20 the Committee found a judge could serve on the County Criminal Justice Commission. The County Criminal Justice Commission was created by County Ordinance. According to the ordinance, the Criminal Justice Commission was to study all aspects of the criminal justice and crime prevention system within the county. The Commission was to then make recommendations to the board of county commissioners on policies and programs designed to accomplish certain objectives.

One Committee member stated "that in light of the Supreme Court's announced desires that judges become more active in areas of enhancing the image of the judiciary, it would appear that participation in the VAAC program is encouraged within the bounds of the Canons."

The Committee concludes that the judge may serve on the VAAC since the VAAC is concerned with the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Service on such a commission would not detract from the judge's role as an impartial magistrate. The Committee would caution the judge that she may have to abstain on certain votes that may involve conflict of interest issues.

The inquiring judge also asks whether a judge may serve in a leadership role in the organization. In Opinion 89-14 the Committee was asked if it was permissible for a judge to chair a task force composed of business and civic leaders intended to enhance community effort to fight drugs and crime. The task force's purpose would be confined to the evaluation of resources and programs, both governmental and private, in the hope of expanding their efficacy. The task force would not be responsible for the raising of funds, the initiation of legislation, the enforcement of law or the prosecution of crimes. A majority of the Committee approved of the judge accepting the chairmanship of this committee.

If the VAAC is not responsible for raising funds, the initiation of legislation, the enforcement of law or the prosecution of crimes, the judge may assume a leadership role on this Advisory Council.

REFERENCES

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 4D, 5C(2).

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 88-24, 88-30, 89-14, 93-23, 94-04, 94-31, 97-20.



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The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the Committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So.2d 834 (Fla. 1997). However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualification Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith. Id.

For further information, contact The Honorable Lisa D. Kahn, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Moore Justice Center, 2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, Florida, 32940-8006.

Participating Members: Judges Dell, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Patterson, Rodriguez, Rushing, Smith, Swartz.

Copies furnished to:
Justice Charles T. Wells
All Committee Members
All Members of the J.Q.C
Office of the State Courts Administrator (Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)