FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Opinion Number: 99-15

Date of Issue: June 1, 1999


WHETHER A JUDGE MAY BE A GUEST SPEAKER AT AN ANNUAL COLLEGE ALUMNI BANQUET, WHEN THE BANQUET IS THE MAIN FUND-RAISER FOR THE ALUMNI CLUB?


ISSUE

Whether a judge may be a guest speaker at an annual college alumni banquet, when the banquet is the main fund-raiser for the alumni club?
ANSWER: No.


FACTS

The inquiring judge has been asked to be the guest speaker at a college's annual banquet. The banquet is the main fund-raiser for the college's alumni club. The audience solicited is primarily alumni members, friends, and other interested parties. The judge asks whether it would be a violation of the Code for her to attend the alumni banquet and participate as the guest speaker. The judge would like to participate in alumni affairs, but asks whether her participation would be a violation of the Code.


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...."


In Opinion 86-5, the inquiring judge asked whether he could accept an invitation to appear as one of four speakers at a Prevention of Blindness Charity Fund-Raising Honorarium for an outstanding public figure. The Committee unanimously found that the judge should "decline the invitation because your participation would be contrary to the provisions of Canon 5B(2), which prohibits you from soliciting funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization and prohibits the use of the prestige of your office for that purpose." The Committee noted this provision prohibited the inquiring judge from being a speaker or guest of honor at such an organization's fund-raising event, however, the judge could attend as a guest. (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.) See also Opinion 99-09, wherein the Committee found that a judge could not receive an award and be inducted into a County Women's Hall of Fame at an annual luncheon where program advertisements had been sold to raise funds for the organization. Although the luncheon itself was not a fundraiser, the sale of program advertisements for the luncheon was the group's major source of income. In the present inquiry, the annual banquet itself is the main fundraiser for the alumni club.

A judge may attend an event 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.


A judge may be a member of a university alumni association. The judge may not allow the use of the judge's name or photograph or the prestige of the judicial office to be used for the solicitation of funds, including membership dues. See Opinion 78-9. However, the judge's name and likeness may be used in an ad campaign for the judge's college alma mater if the purpose of the campaign is to inspire others to seek higher education, and the ads will not be used for fund-raising. See Opinion 97-28.

In conclusion, a judge may not be a guest speaker at a college alumni banquet that is a fund-raiser. The judge certainly may attend the banquet. A judge may be active in alumni affairs, as long as the judge does not participate in any fund-raising.

REFERENCES

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

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 99-09, 98-10, 97- 28, 86-5, 79-17 and 78-9.

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


Participating Members: Judges Dell, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Patterson, Rodriquez, 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)