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?
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?
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.
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...."
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.
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.
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)