FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Opinion Number: 98-32
Date of Issue: December 7, 1998

 

WHETHER A JUDGE MAY PARTICIPATE IN A CHARITY FASHION SHOW?

ISSUE

Whether a judge may participate in a charity fashion show by announcing the winning tickets and describing the items won?
ANSWER: No, pursuant to Canon 5C(3).


FACTS

The inquiring judge has been asked to participate in a fund-raising event, a charity fashion show. A "Chinese Raffle" would be held during the fashion show whereby several prizes would be placed on display for bidding, with tickets to be deposited for each item selected. Once the bidding was closed, someone other than the judge would select the winning tickets (bids). The judge asks whether she can, after selection of the winners, announce the winning tickets and describe the items won. The judge also asks whether she may attend the fashion show and whether she may participate.


DISCUSSION

A judge shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities. Canon 5C(3). The commentary to the Code states that a judge must not be a speaker or guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising event, but mere attendance at such an event is permissible if otherwise consistent with the Code.

In Opinion 88-31, the Committee was asked whether a judge could ethically participate in a fund-raiser benefiting the local Legal Aid Society. The inquiring judge was asked to be a model in the show. The Committee found the judge was ethically prohibited from being involved, stating:

"Notwithstanding that you and other judges would not actively solicit funds, the mere fact that the event has fund raising as its objective forecloses participation by members of the judiciary."


The Committee held in Opinion 90-27 that a judge could not be a celebrity bag person for Winn Dixie. The store had agreed to contribute 5% of its sales to a charitable fund-raiser for cancer during the period that the judge acted as a celebrity bag person. The Committee primarily took this position because the judge's "highly visible participation would be perceived as a cause for direct generation of revenue."

In 95-22 a judge inquired whether he could participate as a team member in on-going games at a local Senior Citizen's Center as a fund-raising project for Kiwanis International. The Committee felt that the judge should not personally participate as a team member in the bingo games. One of the members of the Committee stated that the judge's participation in bingo might be perceived as an activity unbecoming a judge. Participation in a Chinese Raffle might also be perceived as an activity unbecoming a judge.

Judges do appear to be able to participate in fund-raising events where they are not identified as judges and their participation is more in the realm of physically providing help to the event. For example in Opinion 89-19 a majority of the Committee found that a judge could participate in a fund-raising sport event to the extent of holding a sideline marker and checking credentials at the press gate. The judge would not be identified either before or during the event as a member of the judiciary. In Opinion 75-11 the Committee found a judge could use his home for the purpose of holding a "garage sale" to benefit a charity, but suggested that any publicity about the sale should list the names as, "Mr. and Mrs." and the home address, with no reference being made to Judge. Along the same line, Opinion 96-27 found that a judge could participate in a one day home building project with Habitat for Humanity. However, the Committee strongly cautioned the inquiring judge that the project should not be presented or portrayed as a project of the judges of the county.

Therefore eight (8) members of the Committee find that since the inquiring judge in all likelihood will have to be identified in her official capacity as a judge when she is called upon to announce the winning ticket and describe the item won, it would be a violation of the Code of Ethics for her to actively participate in this fund-raiser. The Code's admonition directing that a judge "shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities," is couched as a mandatory directive. Even though the judge may not participate, she may certainly attend.

Two (2) members of the Committee dissented from this opinion. One of the dissenters stated: "I agree the issue presented is subject to Canon 5C(3), but when practically applied the Canon addresses whether the actions of the judge are designed to solicit contributions. If the judge's activities are neither advertised nor the focal point of the solicitation, and if the actions of the judge in announcing the winners of a raffle, which all the funds have already been solicited and obtained, is not designed to obtain additional funds, the judge is doing nothing in contravention of Canon 5. I see no difference between that activity and the standing on the sidelines and officiating activities in a charity football game, which was specifically approved in Opinion 95-22. ...Therefore I would permit the judge to attend and act as an announcer of the winner of the raffle as long as the participation of the judge is not advertised and used as a basis to obtain additional contributions."

REFERENCES


Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 5C(3).

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 75-11, 88-31, 89-19, 90-27, 93-65, 95-22, and 96-27.

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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, The Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Justice Center 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, Tolton and Attorney Blanton.

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)