Opinions of the Judicial Ethics
Advisory Committee



Disclosure/Recusal/Disqualification



Canons
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 2B A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 3E(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself where his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 3E(1)(b) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself where the judge served as a lawyer or was the lower court judge in the matter at issue; the judge practiced law with a lawyer who served in the matter while practicing with the judge; or the judge has been a material witness concerning the matter.
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 3E(1)(d) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself where the judge or the judge’s spouse, a person within the third degree of relationship to either the judge or the spouse, or the spouse of the relative is a party or officer, director or trustee of a party in the proceeding; a lawyer in the proceeding; is known by the judge to have more than a de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding; or is to the judge’s knowledge likely to be a witness in the proceeding.
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Commentary to Canon 3E(1) A judge should disclose on the record any information that he or she believes the parties or their attorneys might consider relevant to disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no real basis for disqualification.
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Commentary to Canon 3E(1)(d) The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated with a law firm with which a relative of the judge is also affiliated does not in an of itself disqualify the judge.
Opinions
Family Members' Affiliations
JEAC Opinion Number
Subject
Judge must disclose that a lawyer appearing before the judge has referred case to the judge’s spouse and that the lawyer may receive a referral fee from judge’s spouse.  However, the judge is not automatically required to recuse after disclosure. 3E(1), 3E(2).
A judge does not have to recuse from all pending Engle Progeny cases assigned to the judge’s trial division where a member of the judge’s family brought an Engle Progeny suit before another trial judge.  Judge, however, must disclose the family member’s case to any future Engle Progeny cases assigned to the judge until no reasonable person would consider the information relevant to a determination of the judge’s impartiality.  Canons 2B,  3(E)(1), 3(E)(1)(d), and 3E(1)(d)(ii).
A judge must adamantly and genuinely encourage a law firm not to promote or market the Judge’s parent-child relationship with an attorney in the law firm. 2B.
Judge may not retain judicial assistant after the judge’s child marries the judicial assistant.  2A, 3C(2), 3C(4), 3E(1)(d), Definitions, and Commentary to 3C(4).
A judge, who receives no alimony or support from a former spouse, need not disclose or enter a disqualification order when the former law partner of the judge’s former spouse appears before the judge, and rents space from and shares a receptionist with the judge’s former spouse. 3E(1), Commentary to 3E(1).
Judge who serves in the circuit criminal division must disclose that spouse is employed as a “sworn legal counsel” to the local sheriff’s office in cases where the sheriff’s office is the investigating or arresting agency or the judge is aware of some other involvement by the sheriff’s office and believes that the parties or their lawyers may consider the circumstances relevant to the issue of disqualification. 3E(1), Commentary to 3E(1).
If a judge’s stepniece is employed as an attorney with the Public Defender’s Office, the judge’s disqualification is not required in all criminal cases in which a public defender is involved. If the stepniece appears before the judge, the judge should disclose that fact, and disqualification may be required, depending on the relationship between the judge and the stepniece. 3(E).
A county judge whose child works in the state attorney’s office may continue to preside over criminal cases, as long as the judge discloses to the parties that the judge’s child works for the state attorney’s office. The judge’s child has no economic interest in the outcome of criminal cases handled by the state attorney’s office. 3E(1), 3E(1)(d)ii, Commentary to Canon 3E(1).
2011-21
Recedes from Opinions 77-12 and 77-04
A judge may not preside over felony arraignments in a county where the judge’s spouse is the supervisor of the State Attorney’s Office because it may cause the judge’s impartiality to reasonably be questioned.
Judge whose spouse is the elected public defender in the judge’s circuit may not preside over cases to which the public defender is assigned in the juvenile and mental health divisions, even if private attorneys handle the cases under case-by-case contracts and the public defender does not exercise any supervisory authority over those attorneys, because such conduct could create the appearance of impropriety. 2A, 2B, 3B(5), 3E(1)(d)(ii), 3F.
Judge who is the spouse of the elected Public Defender may preside over criminal cases involving the public defender’s office after the spouse’s retirement.  However, the relationship is relevant to the question of disqualification and should be disclosed for a reasonable period of time.  The same judge may not preside over public defender cases in which the judge’s spouse was privy to privileged communications if the judge has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding.  The judge may preside over public defender post-conviction hearings in which the spouse may be called to testify as long as the spouse is not a witness.  3E; 3E(1);and 3E(d)(ii).
Judge’s adult son who is a lawyer may accept employment at a law firm that handles cases that would ordinarily come before the judge, but the judge is disqualified from hearing cases handled by the adult son’s law firm.  The judge’s disclosure on the record at the earliest possible time of the judge’s adult child’s employment as a lawyer with the firm, coupled with a representation that the judge’s child does not and will not have any role in the case, and will be “walled off” from the case internally with the firm is not sufficient to avoid disqualification.  A judge may not appoint a special master or receiver from a law firm where the judge’s adult child is employed as an associate attorney. 2; 2B; 3C(4); 3E(1)(d); 3F; and Commentary to 3C(4); 3E(1)(d); 3F.
2007-16
Recedes from JEAC Opinion 2003-18
A judge is not automatically disqualified in all cases involving a law firm that employs the judge’s son-in-law as a part-time law clerk because the son-in-law has no more than a de minimus interest in most proceedings and the judge’s impartiality is unlikely to be reasonably questioned.  However, disclosure is required, and disqualification might be required if the son-in-law was working on the case in question.  The JEAC endorsed a case-by-case analysis and receded from Op. 03-18, which had determined that disqualification was required when a law firm employed the judge’s niece as a summer intern.   3E.
Judge must disqualify himself or herself from all cases involving any lawyer from a law firm employing the judge’s spouse as a paralegal, unless all parties agree to enter a remittal of disqualification.  3E(1); 3F.
Mere employment of a judge’s relative by the sheriff’s department does not automatically warrant or mandate disqualification in all cases involving the department because the family members will generally have no direct financial interest in the outcome of the matter.  Instead, disqualification is not required unless the family member is actually involved in the matter on behalf of the department.  Further, disclosure is not necessary unless the judge believes his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned.  3E(1) and Commentary.
Judge in juvenile delinquency division of court utilizing a unified family court concept must disqualify himself or herself from delinquency matter where the parents of the child involved are represented in a family law matter by the judge’s son’s law firm.  Even though the judge would not be presiding over the case involving the son’s law firm, the judge would be conferring with the family law judge about matters affecting the resolution of the family law and delinquency cases.  3E(1); 3F; and Commentary to Canon 3F.

Judge’s disqualification is required in cases where a member of the law firm employing the judge’s son as an attorney appears as counsel unless all parties agree to a remittal of disqualification.  Disqualification is warranted because the judge’s child has more than a de minimis economic interest in proceedings involving the law firm.  3E(1); 3F; and Commentary to Canon 3F.

Judge must disclose spouse’s business relationship with attorney in matters involving that attorney’s firm if, after considering several factors, the judge thinks it possible that a party might reasonably express concern over the judge’s ability to remain impartial. However, recusal would not be required unless the judge knows spouse would have more than a de minimis interest in the outcome of the proceeding. 3E(1)(d)(iii) and 3E(2).
Mere fact that spouse of Judge of Compensation Claims represents state bureau that is one of several under the Division of Risk Management does not require disqualification, although it does require disclosure. Instead, disqualification is required only where the spouse’s client is a named party in a worker’s compensation claim before the judge. 1, 2A, 3, and 3E.
Judge is required to inform parties when attorneys from firms employing the judge’s first cousins as attorneys appear before the judge. 3E(D)(ii) and 3D.

Receded from in Op. 07-16
Judge must disqualify himself or herself in cases involving law firm employing judge’s niece as a legal intern unless, after disclosure, the parties agree that the judge not be disqualified. However, the Code of Judicial Conduct does not require automatic disclosure and disqualification where a law firm that has employed the judge’s brother as an expert witness in an unrelated matter appears before the judge. 2A, 3E(1)(d), and 3F
Where judge is assigned to criminal division and judge’s spouse is a child victim specialist in the state attorney’s office, the Code of Judicial Conduct does not mandate disqualification of the judge in a criminal case in which the spouse has no involvement but which has allegations of sexual abuse to a child. However, the judge should make the disclosure in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse to a child so that the defendant and the state can determine whether the judge's spouse is, or will be, involved in the case. 3E
Judge responsible for setting conditions of pretrial release could preside over conferences with pretrial services assessment personnel supervised by the judge’s spouse because there was no indication that the spouse’s work or decisions would affect the judge’s decisions. 1, 2 and 2A.
Employment of spouse of the Administrative Judge of the Family Division as case manager in the Family Division violates the Code of Judicial Conduct by giving rise to the appearance of impropriety, especially where the judge acknowledged that the spouse’s work and decisions would affect the judge’s division. Further, this appearance would still exist even if the judge stepped down as the Administrative Judge. 1, 2 and 2A.
Judge must disclose when a party is represented by the law firm that previously represented the law firm of the judge’s spouse in a legal malpractice action for a reasonable period of time. However, the judge is not ethically bound to disqualify himself or herself in such cases unless the judge believes that his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 3E.
Judge may preside over cases in which the court reporter is employed by court reporting service owned by judge’s spouse provided that the judge is not involved in any decision regarding the spouse’s hiring as the contract court reporter. Further, the judge need not disclose that court reporters from the spouse’s business are covering court proceedings. 2B.
County judge married to the elected public defender in the judge’s circuit may not preside over cases in the criminal division to which the public defender is assigned. However, judge need not disclose relationship with public defender when conducting weekend or holiday appearance hearings before the public defender has been appointed. 3E, 3E(1), 3E(1)(d)(ii) and 3F.
If criminal division judge whose son-in-law is a candidate for the Office of Public Defender cannot be reassigned to a different division, the judge must disqualify himself or herself from any case in which the public defender is actually involved However, disqualification is not automatic where assistant public defenders are involved; instead, the judge should continue to disclose the situation and evaluate whether disqualification is merited on a case-by-case basis. 3E, 3E(1), and 3E(1)(a).
Attorney-Client Relationship
Even after four years had passed since judge represented medical center in medical malpractice claims, judge was still required to disclose former attorney-client relationship. 3E(1).
Judge’s Finances
Senior judge may serve as a court-appointed, litigant-paid independent investigator regarding a shareholders’ derivative suit pursuant to section 607.07401 Florida Statutes (2016), but only in circuits where judge is not currently presiding. Dual-service, same- circuit prohibitions apply regarding this quasi-judicial role. The senior judge would be required to disclose such service in certain cases in which senior judge is presiding.  5F(2).
Senior judge may not serve as a litigant-paid special magistrate in any case in a circuit in which the judge is currently presiding as a senior judge. See Fla. Code Jud Conduct, Canon 2; Fla. Code Jud Conduct, Canon 5F(2).
Judge who referred a personal injury case to a law firm prior to taking the bench may accept referral fee from law firm after taking the bench, but may only do so on a quantum meruit basis because the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar require lawyers receiving a referral fee to either receive a fee proportionate to their participation in the case, or a set percentage if the lawyer is available to consult with the client and accepts joint legal responsibility for the representation, none of which a judge can do under the Canons.  The judge is disqualified from presiding over matters in which the law firm appears as counsel because the Canons prohibit judges from engaging in financial and business dealings with lawyers who come before the judge.  5A, 5D(1)(b), 5E, 5G.

A judge may continue to maintain an ownership interest is an entity which owns a building leased to members of the judge’s former law firm, so long as the judge is disqualified from any cases involving the former partners’ firm and the business relationship does not lead to an excessive number of such disqualifications. 5D(1) and 5D(2).

A judge must disclose to all parties in litigation the judge’s status as the landlord of one of the parties.  Absent waiver by all parties after proper disclosure, the judge’s status as the landlord of a party disqualifies him from presiding over a matter.   The judge is not required to divest real estate owned by the judge and leased to a bank unless the bank is likely to come before the court on which the judge serves. 3E(1), 3E(1)(c), 3E(1)(d)(iii), Commentary to 3E; 5D, 5D(1), 5D(1)(b).
A judge who, along with his spouse, is a tenant/defendant in a residential condominium foreclosure proceeding may preside over residential foreclosure proceedings without recusing himself. However, the judge must disclose his status as tenant/defendant in a residential foreclosure proceeding to all residential foreclosure litigants. The judge must disclose his status to litigants who present motions for writs of possession or objections for the judge’s consideration, or to litigants in residential foreclosure cases involving tenant-occupied residential properties. 2, 3B(1), and 3E(1).
2010-25
recedes from JEAC opinions 89-5, 90-9, 93-25, and 96-13
A judge may hold stock in an insurance company that underwrites bail bonds which may be subject to forfeiture or motions to set aside and remit bond forfeitures, as long as the judge does not have more than a de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceedings.  When a judge holds stock in an insurance company which underwrites bail bonds, he or she may forfeit bonds or hear motions to set aside forfeitures or motions to remit forfeitures, as long as the judge does not have more than a de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceedings.  The judge must disclose the stock ownership in any case in which the insurance company underwrites a bail bond only if the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might consider the information relevant to the question of disqualification.  2; 3; 3E; 3E(1); 3E(1)(c); 3E(1)(d)(iii); 3F; 5D; 5D(4); 5E(1); and Definition Section. Note: This opinion recedes from JEAC opinions 89-5, 90-9, 93-25, and 96-13.
Judge’s Social Relationships
Judge must disclose relationship in all cases involving a bank whose loan collection official is the judge’s close personal friend, but must recuse only from cases in which the friend appears as a party, witness, or representative of the bank, or when the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 2, 2A, 3B(1), 3E, 3E(1), 3F.
Judge may not add lawyers who may appear before the judge as connections on the professional networking site LinkedIn or permit such lawyers to add the judge as their connection on that site. Otherwise it would be impracticable for the judge to constantly scan cases, and the lawyers appearing in each case, in order to “defriend” or “delist” each lawyer connection making an appearance in a case assigned to that judge. 2A.
judge may not allow juveniles to perform court-ordered community service by participating in a jogging program with the judge because such participation could undermine the impartiality of the judge and judicial office.  2A, 2B, 3B(7), 3E(1)(a), 5A(1), (2), (5), and (6).
Judge may not serve as chief judge of a circuit while in a committed relationship with one of the general magistrates in that circuit, even if the judge serving as the chief judge did not have a role in hiring the magistrate.  This impropriety or appearance of impropriety will continue to exist even if the judge’s first act upon becoming chief judge of the circuit is to execute an administrative order formally transitioning all supervisory authority over all general magistrates to another circuit court judge.  2.
Judge who is a member of a voluntary bar association is not required to “de-friend” lawyers who are also members on that organization’s Facebook page and who use Facebook to communicate among themselves about that organization and other non-legal matters.  However, a judge may not allow an attorney access to the judge’s personal social networking page as a “friend,” even if the judge sends a communication to all attorney “friends” or posts a permanent, prominent disclaimer on the judge’s Facebook profile page that the term “friend” should be interpreted to simply mean that the person is an acquaintance of the judge and not a “friend” in the traditional sense.  This prohibition of judges “friending” attorneys who may appear before the judge remains true if the judge accepts as “friends” all attorneys who request to be included or all persons whose names the judge recognizes, and others whose names the judge does not recognize but who share a number of common friends.  2A; 2B; 3E; Commentary to 2A; and Commentary to Canon 3E(1).
Judge’s judicial assistant may add lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a social networking site, as long as the activity is wholly independent of the judge and does not reference the judge or the judge’s office.  2B and 3C(2).
Pursuant to the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, when a judge is a partner in a building partnership with the County Attorney, the judge must disqualify himself or herself from all cases in which the county is involved.  Such disqualification is required except in cases in which the county is represented by outside counsel which is independent of the County Attorney’s supervision.  3E(1); 3E(1)(c); 3F; 5; 5A; 5D(1); 5D(1)(b); and 5D(4).
Judge may not rent a room in the judge’s home to a non-related person who is on community control because the judge could bear witness to the person’s conduct and thus, potentially become a witness in court.  2A; 2B; 5A; and 5D(1)(a).
Judge may post comments and other material on the judge's page on a social networking site, if the publication of such material does not otherwise violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.  However, a judge may not add lawyers who may appear before the judge as "friends" on a social networking site, or permit such lawyers to add the judge as their "friend." 2B; Commentary to 2A.
Judge’s acceptance of a weekend trip to Maine with an attorney eight to nine years ago does not require the judge to continue recusing himself or herself from cases handled by the attorney and the attorney's law firm.  Disclosure on the record of the last eight to nine years of voluntary recusal and the reason for the recusal is required.  3E(1); 5D(5); 5D(5)(c); 5D(5)(e); 5D(5)(h); and Commentary to 3E(1) and 5D(5)(h).
Judge must disqualify himself or herself from all cases in which the judge’s former fiancé serves as an expert witness and the engagement ended less than three years ago.  3E(1); 3C(4); 3F.
Judge must disclose that former fiancé’s CPA firm leases office space from a partnership in which the judge is a general partner and the engagement ended less than three years ago.   3E(1); 3C(4); 3F.
Judge must disclose friendship with attorney even in cases handled by the attorney’s associate if, in the judge's estimation, the nature of the friendship is sufficient to warrant reasonable concern over the judge's impartiality. 3E(1).
Judge should recuse himself or herself for a reasonable time from cases involving an attorney or any member of the attorney's law firm where the judge has a close social, election, and professional relationship with the attorney. 2 and 4.
Judge may appoint psychologist to whom the judge was once engaged over ten years ago to conduct evaluations in criminal cases. Further, the judge need not disclose this relationship, though he or she might have to disclose a continuing friendship with the psychologist on a case-by-case basis. 2 and 3E(1)
The Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to recuse himself or herself from cases involving an attorney with whom the judge owns a parcel of real estate, even though the attorney appears before the judge infrequently, the judge’s ownership interest is small and the judge’s involvement is primarily passive. 3F(1)(c), 3F, 5A(3) and 5D(1)(a),(b).
Mere possibility that judge in family division might be involved in litigation with former spouse concerning their children does not require disclosure or recusal from all litigation concerning children. 3E(1).
Judge may not privately mediate his or her friends’ marriage dissolution because no law or court rule expressly authorizes such service. 5F and 5G.
Administrative judge in county criminal division who owns a one-sixth interest in recreational property in which the state attorney also owns an interest must disqualify himself or herself from all cases involving the state attorney’s office because of the possible appearance of impropriety. 3E, 3E(1), 5D, 5D(1), 5D(1)(b), 5D(2), and 5D(4).
Judge’s Professional Relationships
Senior judge may serve as a court-appointed, litigant-paid independent investigator regarding a shareholders’ derivative suit pursuant to section 607.07401 Florida Statutes (2016), but only in circuits where judge is not currently presiding. Dual-service, same- circuit prohibitions apply regarding this quasi-judicial role. The senior judge would be required to disclose such service in certain cases in which senior judge is presiding.  5F(2).
A traffic hearing officer is not disqualified from cases that are handled by attorneys to whom the officer has referred clients where there had been no financial agreement for the officer to receive any fees or money for the referrals and where the officer does not preside over cases that were referred to the lawyers.  A traffic hearing officer is also not required to disclose his or her previous practice of referring cases to attorneys appearing before the officer unless the officer believes the nature of the friendship or relationship is sufficient to warrant reasonable concern over the officer’s impartiality. 1, 2, 2B, 3E(1).
Senior judge may not serve as a litigant-paid special magistrate in any case in a circuit in which the judge is currently presiding as a senior judge. See Fla. Code Jud Conduct, Canon 2; Fla. Code Jud Conduct, Canon 5F(2).
A judge who was the defendant in two residential mortgage foreclosure actions need not recuse from all mortgage foreclosure cases, nor from all cases involving the same lawyers, lenders, or assignees.  Nor does the judge need to disclose the mortgage foreclosures brought against the judge’s personal residence.  However, if the same lawyers, lenders, or assignees appear before the judge, the judge should disclose the prior litigation until such time as no reasonable person would find the disclosure relevant to a determination of whether the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 3E(1).
A judge may not give an educational presentation to the summer law clerks of the judge’s former law firm. 2, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B(8), 3E(1)(b), 4, 4A(1), 4A(4), 4B, Commentary to Canon 4(B); Commentary to 3B(8).
A judge may donate money to a legal aid organization whose attorneys appear before the judge, unless the judge concludes that the circumstances of the donation would cause a reasonable perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality, and competence is impaired. 2A & Commentary; Canon 4A(1) & (2); Canon 4B & Commentary; Canon 4D(2) Commentary.
Judge seeking re-election must disclose to counsel and parties in all cases when an attorney who is on the judge’s fund-raising committee appears in a proceeding before the judge. Mere contribution to or assistance with the judge’s campaign does not require automatic recusal. Disclosure need be made only in cases where some action by the judge is required. Disclosure may be made using official letterhead at public expense because it is for the benefit of litigants and integrity of the judicial system rather than for the judge’s personal benefit. 3E(1), 7C(1).
Judge may not preside in a case in which judge, while previously in law practice, provided mediation services, but may preside in a case in which a party is represented by a lawyer to whom the judge provided mediation services while in law practice. 3E(1)(a), 5F(2).
Permitting the use of the judge’s chambers for the display of art acquired by the local government for display pursuant to its art-in-public-places program would not require the judge’s disqualification or disclosure in cases involving the local government. 2, 2B, 3B(1), 3B(5), 3B(10), 3E(1), 5D(5).
Judge facing re-election must provide notice to parties when a member of the judge’s campaign committee is opposing counsel, even in cases likely to be handled without formal court appearances. The judge may not use campaign literature to provide the notice. The judge may use campaign funds to defray the costs of providing notice. 7C(1).
A civil traffic infraction hearing officer may simultaneously serve as a municipality’s local hearing officer pursuant to section 316.003(91), Florida Statutes (2013). Although there might be substantive legal issues under section 318.36, Florida Statutes (2012), dual employment would not be prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct. Application, 1, 2A, 3.
Judge who consulted with, but did not hire, an attorney from a large law firm to represent the judge a year ago need not recuse from cases where the attorney or the firm appear as counsel. The judge might, depending on the circumstances, have to disclose the consultation in cases where the attorney or law firm represents a party. 3E(1).
Judge must recuse, for a reasonable period of time, from cases involving an attorney and law firm that represented the judge, the judge’s mother, and the judge’s brother in a personal injury case that settled without going to trial. Once the judge is no longer required to recuse from such cases, the judge must nevertheless, for a reasonable period of time, disclose that relationship to parties in cases in which that attorney or law firm appears. 2, 2A, 3B(1), 3E, 3E(1), 3F.
Judge may preside over non-traffic civil cases in which a party is represented by an attorney who also serves as a civil traffic infraction hearing officer for the circuit, but should make an appropriate disclosure. Application section A(2), 3E(1), 3F.
A judge may preside over a matter without recusing him or herself when the judge was an attorney representing the adverse party of an attorney/litigant over seven years ago, but the judge must disclose his or her involvement in the previous case. However, the judge must recuse him or herself if the previous contested litigation affects the judge’s ability to act impartially in a current unrelated civil matter. 3E, Commentary to Canon 3E(1).
A judge may allow criminal arraignments to be broadcast nationally on television by a regular network because the Florida Supreme Court has mandated that electronic media coverage of public judicial proceedings in the trial courts of the state are permitted subject to the presiding judge’s authority to control the proceedings, ensure decorum and prevent distractions, and ensure the fair administration of justice.  The judge may not, however, be paid under a contract with the television network to perform a teaching segment in which the judge explains the law and sentencing choices, and interviews different “players” in the court system. This is true because discussing the judge’s reasoning and sentencing choices could lead to frequent disqualification, cast doubt on the judge’s ability to act impartially in cases the judge discusses publicly, or interfere with a fair trial or hearing. 2A, 3(B)(9), 4A, 4B, 5A, and 5B.
A judge is not required to recuse from a case in which one of the attorneys is married to an attorney who represents the judge in an unrelated civil matter, where the spouses are and have always worked at different firms. This is true as long as the attorney spouse appearking before the judge has no financial stake in the outcome of the judge’s personal case and the judge’s attorney maintains confidentiality. However, the judge must disclose to the parties that an attorney who is appearing in a case before the judge is married to an attorney representing the judge in an unrelated civil matter. 2, 3B(1), and 3E(1).
A judge who intends to seek re-election may not preside over a case in which one of the party’s attorneys is the law partner and campaign treasurer. Presiding over a case that involves a political opponent’s law partner/campaign treasurer may call into question the judge’s impartiality. 3E(1).

A senior judge who owns several residential mortgages on properties and receives income from those properties may handle mortgage foreclosure matters, as long as the business dealings do not involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with persons likely to come before the judge personally or before other judges on the judge’s court.   5D(1)(a), Canon 5D(2); Commentary to Canon 5; Application to the Code of Judicial Conduct, Section B(1).


Recedes from JEAC Opinion 91-17

A newly-elected judge who previously served as a public defender may hear a case involving a defendant who was represented by the public defender’s office during the judge’s employment with that office, as long as the judge has no involvement with the case, and no knowledge of the facts of the case unless there are other circumstances which call into question the judge’s impartiality.  3E(1)(b) and Commentary to 3E(1)(b).
Note:  Committee concludes in this opinion that opinion 91-17 was erroneously decided because it does not recognize the commentary to canon 3e(1)(b) that states that lawyers in government agencies are not automatically disqualified from hearing matters simply because they were assigned to the public defender’s office at the time the lawyer (judge) was employed by that office.

A full-time general magistrate who hears family and civil matters exclusively in one county may not work with the state as a certified family mediator in an adjoining county on weekends and days off from employment because combining the roles of a civil/family magistrate and a private certified family magistrate in one person could cause an erosion of the public’s confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the general master.  1, 2A, and 3.

A Traffic Hearing Officer may contribute the annual fee of $350.00 to the local Legal Aid Society instead of performing pro bono legal service hours unless the local Legal Aid Society engages in litigation or represents impoverished people in proceedings before the hearing officer.  Similarly, a Traffic Hearing Officer may perform pro bono legal service hours for the local Legal Aid Society as long as the hours do not include areas of law in civil or criminal traffic court.  1, 2A, Commentary to 2A, 3, 5C(3), and Application to the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Retired judge may sit as a senior judge and as a traffic infraction hearing officer in the same judicial circuit.  The Committee did not address possible concerns regarding dual office holding, as this is beyond the scope of the JEAC’s authority.  1; 2; 3; 4; and 5.

Judge’s entry of an Order of Recusal in a civil matter because litigant was married to assistant state attorney with whom the judge had a “tumultuous” relationship does not mandate recusal or disqualification in all cases involving any assistant state attorney.  3B(1); 3E.

Judge may not satisfy disclosure requirements by (1) sending a mass mailing to all members of the local bar listing the members of the judge’s campaign committee; or (2) placing advertisements with this information in the local bar association newsletter.  Instead, such disclosure must be on the record in open court.  Notice by posting in the courthouse is neither required nor sufficient for disclosure.  3E(1).

While a judge is required to disclose to the State when a criminal defense attorney appearing before the judge is currently on his or her campaign committee, disqualification depends upon the extent of the attorney’s involvement in the committee and the remoteness in time of the attorney’s participation.  However, if disqualification is required and not waived, it extends to any member of the attorney’s law firm.  3E(1) and Commentary; 3F.

If judge leases office building he or she owns to a local legal aid group, the judge must disqualify himself or herself from any cases in which lawyers affiliated with the group appear unless the parties agree to a waiver.  Further, if the judge cannot minimize the number of disqualifications due to the rental relationship, the judge must divest himself or herself of the office building as soon as it can be accomplished without serious financial detriment.  3E(1); 3F; 5; 5D(1)(b), (2), (4).

Judge should not appear in public relations campaign for public library system because such involvement could be viewed as showing favoritism to the county, likely a frequent litigant before the court.  Commentary to Canon 3E(1).
While the Code does not prohibit a judge from remaining the beneficiary of a land trust along with some of the judge’s former partners, the judge must disqualify himself from any cases in which those former partners are involved.  Consequently, the judge should dispose of any interest in the trust if it is likely that the co-beneficiaries will appear frequently in proceedings before the court on which the judge serves.  3E; 3F; 5; 5D(1)(b); 5D(4); and Commentary to Canon 3E(1).
Part-time traffic magistrate may rent office space from law firm that handles traffic matters as long as the relationship is at arm’s length and the lease is commercially reasonable.  However, it would be “ill advised” for the magistrate to hear any of the law firm’s cases because the magistrate’s impartiality might be questioned.  Also, if the magistrate becomes a general contractor with the firm, he must disqualify himself or herself in any case involving the firm.  3E(1) and 3E(1)(c).
In the event that a judge’s judicial assistant is or has recently been employed by an attorney who subsequently appears before that judge, judge should disclose the employment.  No canons cited.
Judge is not required to direct a staff attorney to disqualify himself or herself from all cases involving the legal department of the governmental agency which employs the staff attorney’s spouse as an attorney where the spouse exercises no supervisory authority within the legal department. 3C(2); 3E(1); and 3E(1)(d)(ii).
While a judge must disclose to parties in a pending case that the judge has reported an attorney in the case to the Florida Bar for alleged misconduct in the case, the judge is not necessarily disqualified. Also, the judge is not obligated to disclose the reporting in subsequent cases in which the attorney appears before the judge. 3D(2); Commentary to 3E(1).
While a judge is not required to report a notary public or a party to the appropriate entities for possible misconduct, there is no ethical bar against the judge’s doing so. Further, if the judge makes such a report, the judge is required to disclose this to the parties, and disqualification may be warranted given that the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 3D(2); Commentary to 3E(1).
Judge is not required to disclose that judge reported a party to the State Attorney’s Office in other cases involving the party’s attorney’s law firm; nor is the judge required to disclose in those same cases that the judge reported the law firm’s notary to an entity for misconduct. 3D(2); Commentary to 3E(1).
Where judge has hired a lawyer for representation in a civil lawsuit, judge must automatically recuse himself or herself from all cases involving the lawyer or the lawyer’s firm, even if those cases are uncontested and even though the judge is the only judge assigned to the probate and guardianship division of the circuit. 2, 3, 3E(1) and Commentary, and 3F.
Two years is an acceptable length of time for new judge to recuse himself or herself from cases handled by former law firm. 3E(1)(d)(ii) and 3D.
Judge should recuse himself or herself for a reasonable time from cases involving an attorney or any member of the attorney's law firm where the judge has a close social, election, and professional relationship with the attorney. 2 and 4.
There is no per se requirement that a judge disqualify himself or herself or make a disclosure in cases involving an attorney who was a member of the judge’s re-election committee. Instead, the judge must evaluate each case individually in light of the extent of the attorney’s involvement in the election and the remoteness in time of that involvement. 3E(1) and 3F
Where judge once served as law clerk to a now-suspended attorney who appears before the judge pro se, judge need not observe a per se rule of disclosure or disqualification provided that no financial arrangement exists between the judge and the attorney in question and, further, that a sufficient time has passed so that no objective person would question the judge's impartiality. 3E(1).
2000-34
Recedes from JEAC Opinions 74-04, 75-07, and 78-16
Unless disqualification is waived after disclosure, a judge must recuse himself or herself from cases in which a former law partner is the attorney of record and that attorney’s firm is making payment to the judge pursuant to a promissory note. 3E(1) and 5D(4).
Chief Judge of circuit should not allow trial court law clerks employed by the circuit to serve as arbitrators in that circuit because the arbitration matters could ultimately come before the court. 5F, Preamble Definitions Section and Applications Section B.