FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Opinion Number: 99-09
Date of Issue: March 22, 1999

WHETHER A JUDGE MAY RECEIVE AN AWARD AND BE INDUCTED INTO A COUNTY WOMEN'S HALL OF FAME AT AN ANNUAL LUNCHEON WHERE PROGRAM ADVERTISEMENTS HAVE BEEN SOLD TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE ORGANIZATION?

ISSUE


Whether a judge may receive an award and be inducted into a County Women's Hall of Fame at an annual luncheon where program advertisements have been sold to raise funds for the organization?
ANSWER: No.

FACTS

The inquiring judge has been selected for induction into a County Women's Hall of Fame. She has been invited to attend and be a guest of honor at the annual awards ceremony. The luncheon itself is not a fund-raiser. However, the public may purchase ads in a souvenir journal congratulating the nominee(s) or inductee(s), promoting an organization, a cause, or an individual. The solicitation for the advertisement states that the group's "major source of income is through advertising in the program book." The inquiring judge asks whether it would be ethically permissible for her to attend the luncheon and receive an award.

DISCUSSION

Canon 5C(3)(b)(i) prohibits a judge from personally participating in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities. Canon 5C(3)(b)(iii) prohibits a judge from using or permitting the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising. The Commentary to Canon 5C(3) (b)states that, "A judge must not be a speaker or guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising event...."

Past Committee Opinions have found it permissible for a judge to attend and receive an award if the event is not a fund-raiser. In Opinion 98-10 the Committee found it permissible for the judge to be honored by and receive an award from the Exchange Club Castle at a ceremony, as long as the event was not a fund-raiser. In Opinion 79-17 the judge was permitted to be the guest of honor at a dinner sponsored by a university outside of Florida, sit at the head table, and accept an award for voluntary services rendered before ascending the bench. The judge was cautioned not to engage in any fund raising activities). 1

However, when an event is primarily a fund-raiser, a judge may not attend and accept an award. An almost identical factual situation arose in Opinion 90-20. In that Opinion, the inquiring judge was a vice president of a charitably funded institution, and was to participate as a guest of honor at an annual non fund-raising dinner. While the judge would do no fund raising on his own, patrons could purchase journal advertisements dedicated to the inquiring judge as guest of honor. Distribution of the advertisement journal was one of the main institutional fund-raising activities for the year. Although the inquiring judge would be guest of honor at a non fund-raising event, the judge's presence and participation would enhance an associated fund-raising activity. Eight members of the Committee found the judge's proposed attendance as guest of honor prohibited, citing Canon 5B(2), which stated:

"A judge should not solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of his office for that purpose, but he may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee or (sic) such an organization. He should not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund raising events, but he may attend such events." 2



See, also, Opinion 96-3, wherein eight members of the Committee found that the inquiring judge, a former pro football player, could not appear at a Jewish Community Center dinner to accept recognition for his induction into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel. Tickets were to be sold for the dinner and the proceeds used to subsidize children's visits to Israel. The Committee noted that the inquiring judge's status as judge would not be advertised, but the simple fact remained that he was now a judge and subject to the Code.

In the present inquiry, the judge's status as judge is not advertised. However, the event is still a major fund-raiser for the organization, and, therefore the inquiring judge is forbidden by the Code to attend as a guest of honor to accept the award.


REFERENCES

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 5C(3)(b), 5C(3)(b)(i), 5C(3)(b)(iii), and Commentary to 5C(3)(b).

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 79-17, 83-11, 90-20, 96-3 and 98-10.

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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. and Harriette V. Moore Justice Center, 2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, Florida, 32940-8006.

 

Participating Members: Cardonne, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Patterson, Rodriguez, Rushing, Silverman, Smith, Swartz 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)

1 An anomaly Opinion is found at Opinion 83-11, wherein the Committee found a judge could accept an award for services to the Jewish Community while the synagogue was conducting a State of Israel Bonds Drive, when the solicitation was to take place before the award was given.

2 Canon 5B(2) has been renumbered and revised as Canon 5C(3)(b)(i), Canon 5C(3)(b)(iii), and corresponding Commentary to Canon 5.