Opinions of the Judicial Ethics
Advisory Committee



Fund-Raising


NOTE: the Code of Judicial Conduct was amended in 2008.  Opinions prior to 2008 may not be consistent with the current Code. 
Updates to this page forthcoming.
Canons

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4, quasi-judicial activities, & Canon 5, extra-judicial activities.  A judge must conduct all such activities so that they do not:  (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality; (3) demean the judicial office; (4) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties; (5) lead to frequent disqualification of the judge; or (6) appear to a reasonable person to be coercive. 

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4D(2)(b) & Commentary.  A judge may speak at, receive an award or other recognition at, or be featured on the program of, and permit the judge’s title to be used in conjunction with a fundraising event only if the event concerns the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, the judge does not engage in direct solicitation of funds, and the funds will be used for a law related purpose.  Such fund-raising activities cannot be performed for advocacy organizations if participation would cast doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially.

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4D(2)(e)  A judge may not use court premises, staff, stationery, equipment, or other resources for fund-raising purposes, except for incidental use for activities that concern the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canons 4D(2)(A), 5C(3)(b)(i) A judge shall not personally or directly participate in the solicitation of funds, except that a judge may solicit funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority.

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5C(3)(b) Mere attendance at a fund-raising event does not constitute a violation of Canon 5C(3)(b).  It is generally permissible to perform subsidiary and unadvertised functions at fund-raising events sponsored by educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organizations so long as they do not entail direct or personal solicitation.  A judge can only be a speaker, guest of honor, or otherwise be featured at fund-raising events as authorized by Canon 4D(2)(b).

Opinions
Receiving Awards
JEAC Opinion Number
Subject
A judge may not attend an award luncheon to accept an award and be inducted into a hall of fame sponsored by a county’s women’s history organization, where program advertisements are sold to raise funds for the sponsoring organization, even if the judge's name or office is not used in the fund raising effort. 5C(3)(b); Commentary to Canon 5C(3)(b)
Judge may compete in a local cook-off competition being held at a Jamaican Jerk Festival in which the winners will receive a cash award and trophy, as the event does not serve a fund-raising purpose. 2B, 5A, Commentary to 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D.
A judge may not attend a fundraising event for a veteran’s organization during which the judge will be honored and where more than half the funds raised will be used to assist veterans identified by the courts as needing financial assistance. The judge’s participation is not permitted under the 2008 amendments to the Code because the organization is not an entity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; the event does not concern the law, the legal system or the administration of justice; and the funds raised will not be used for a law-related purpose. 4D, 4A(1)-(6), 4D(2)(b), 5, and 5C(3)(b).

A judge may not accept an award the Junior League has advertised it will bestow upon the judge at a fundraising event because judges may not accept awards that do not concern the law, legal system, or the administration of justice at fundraisers.  Similarly, the judge may not enlist his or her spouse or someone else in the community to accept the award on the judge’s behalf because it would compromise the prestige of judicial office.  Commentary to Canon 4(D)(2); 4(D)(2)(b) & 5C(3)(b)(iii).

A judge may not accept the “Spirit of Excellence” Government Leader of the Year Award from an organization whose purpose is to provide business training and networking opportunities for women, where the award will be presented at a ceremony not advertised as a fundraiser but at which: (1) event expenses will be paid by the sale of tickets to the event and by congratulatory, business, or personal ads in an event publication, and (2) the organization will conduct a raffle to raise money for a scholarship fund.  This participation is prohibited because the subject organization is not an “organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, [and] the administration of justice” as authorized by the Code.  2B, 5A, 5C(3)(b), Commentary to 2C and 5C(3)(b).
Judge may not attend and receive an award at ORT America’s Jurisprudence Award Tribute event because it is a fundraiser for an organization that is mainly involved in education programs rather than law-related activities.  4D; 5C; 4D(2)(b); 5C(3)(b)(iii).
Active circuit or county judge may serve on committee to honor member of district court of appeal so long as fund-raising restrictions are followed. Preamble, 4D, and 7A(1)(b)
Judge may not receive award and be inducted into county women’s hall of fame, at luncheon where program advertisements have been sold to raise funds for the organization.5C(3)(b), 5C(3)(b)(i), 5C(3)(b)(iii), and Commentary to 5C(3)(b)
Judge may attend and receive an award at an event if it is not a fund-raiser. 4, 4D(2), 4D(2)(a)
Judge may not be guest of honor at annual non-fundraising dinner, where patrons may purchase journal advertisements dedicated to the judge as guest of honor. 5B(2)
Scholarship in Judge's Name
Sitting judge may not permit a not-for-profit organization controlled by a voluntary bar association to raise funds for scholarship in judge’s name. 2B
Guest Speaker

A judge may not speak to a conference of judges, court administrators, and others concerning a trial over which the judge presided while the case is still pending appeal because it violates the Canon 3B(7) prohibition against ex parte communications and the Canon 3B(9) prohibition against making public comments about pending cases. A minority of the Committee found that the contemplated conduct only violated the prohibition on making public comments about pending cases. 3B(7), 3B(9), 3B(10), 4.

A judge may not speak at and be featured on a program and may not permit the judge’s title to be used for a fundraiser for a program that provides supervised child care to parents and guardians who are attending court-related matters. A judge may not be a speaker or guest of honor, or otherwise be featured at an organization’s fundraising event that does not concern the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; or where the organization is not an entity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and the funds raised will not be used for a law-related purpose.  4A(1) – (6), 4D(2), 5A(1) – (6), 5C(3)(b).

Judge may speak at a fundraiser dinner for drug court, so long as the judge makes reasonable and continuous efforts to ensure that the judge’s participation in the event falls clearly within the parameters of Canon 4D(2)(b), Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, and that the judge’s participation does not violate Canon 4A(1)-(6), Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.  4; 4A(1)-(6); 4D(2); 4D(2)(b); and Commentary to 4D(2).
Judge may be guest speaker at dinner honoring law enforcement and other public safety officers so long as event is not a fund-raiser. 2, 4 and 5
2001-09
Recedes from JEAC Opinion 75-11
Judge may not participate as a featured speaker at a fund-raising roast of a prominent local figure, auction dinner and drinks for twelve at the judge’s home, or allow charitable organizations to use judge’s historical home for fund-raising purposes. If judge’s spouse decides to allow charitable organizations to use judge’s historical home for fund-raising purposes, the judge must vacate the home during such an event. 5, 5C, 5C(3), 5C(3)(b)i, 5C(3)(b)iii
Judge may not be guest speaker at an annual college alumni banquet, when the banquet is a fund-raiser for the club. 5C(3)(b), 5C(3)(b)(i), 5C(3)(b)(iii), and Commentary to 5C(3)(b)
Fund-Raising for Non-Voluntary Bar Association
Judge may not ethically participate in a voluntary bar association’s fund-raising event by providing goods [including artwork or crafts made by the judge] for sale or auction, performing a skit, displaying a talent, being a model, or otherwise performing at the event. 4
Charitable Fund-Raising and Volunteering

A judge may not serve on a local bar association committee formed to host a golf tournament, which is a fundraising event for the Guardian Ad Litem Foundation, an entity that regularly appears before the judge. Service on the committee “casts reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge” as prohibited by Canon 5A(1). However, a judge may attend the golf tournament and assist with organizational tasks. 5A(1), 5C(3), 5C(3)(a), 5C(3)(b).

Judge may not directly solicit donations of used books for use by inmates in jail library from attorneys and others, because the judge may not solicit or accept gifts for any reason from those who appear before the judge, and because the solicitation and receipt of donations may convey the impression that the judge will favor those who donate, provide grounds to question the judge’s impartiality, and may appear to be coercive. 4A, 5A, 5D(5)(h).

A judge may only encourage others to participate in a walk/run fundraiser that is sponsored by a bar association when the funds will support the bar association’s pro bono project, if that encouragement is limited to judges over whom the judge exercises no supervisory or appellate authority. 4

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

A judge may contribute leftover campaign funds to a charitable organization on whose board of directors the judge serves. 5C & Commentary; Canon 7C

A judge may make a public appeal for potential foster parents in a circuit or county where the vetting and training of foster parents is performed by a nonprofit agency that is reimbursed for its administrative costs, so long as the judge does not do so in a manner reasonably perceivable as coercive or casting doubt on the judge’s ability to handle such cases impartially, the judge holds no personal stake in the agency in question, and the judge does not attempt to influence the distribution of training assignments.  2B

Newly elected judge may continue membership in several women's organizations as long as they are gender neutral and the judge does not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fundraising activities.   2A-C, 4A, 4D(2), 5A, and 5C(3)(b)(i).

Judge, a member of a regional Association for Women Lawyers, may participate as a model in the association’s cocktail party and fashion show where the proceeds primarily benefit a free childcare facility in the courthouse but also help fund the association’s financial assistance to law students support. 2B, 4A(2), 4A(3), 4B(2)(b), 4D(2)(a), 4D(2)(b).

Judges assigned to a specialized domestic violence division may not participate in a fund-raising walk-a-thon sponsored by a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness for and support domestic violence victims. The funds raised will be used to aid one party – the alleged victim – in cases presided over by the judges, which could put into question their impartiality. 2A, 4, 4A(1), 5, 5A(1), Commentary to 5A.

Judge may not attend a religious organization’s fund-raising dinner, where the organization mailed invitations listing the judge as one of several hosts without notifying the judge before mailing the invitations. 2B, 5C(3)(b)(iii).

Judge in the juvenile division may not accept an award at a charity luncheon sponsored by an organization that provides services to children in need and their families. A silent auction was going to take place during the auction, which indicates that the luncheon is a fund-raiser. 5B, 5C(3)(b)(i)–5C(3)(b)(iii).

Judge may not participate in a charity walkathon wearing a shirt with a team name based on the name of a local attorney in private practice. The judge’s spouse may donate and solicit funds on the spouse’s behalf and on behalf of the team, as long as the judge is not seeking to solicit funds vicariously through the spouse. 2B, 5C(3)(b), Commentary to 5C(3)(b).

A judge member of a standing committee of the Florida Supreme Court may not directly solicit donations from voluntary bar associations to help defray the costs to print and distribute to judges, the legal community, and the public a brochure that the committee drafted about the perception of fairness in Florida courts.  This activity is prohibited because of Canon 4D(2)’s absolute bar against a judge’s personal or direct solicitation of funds from anyone other than a judge over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority. 4D(2)(a), (b), and (c).

2011-15
Recedes from Opinions 10-23 and 10-30

A judge seeking re-election may be a hole sponsor at a charity golf tournament hosted by the young lawyers section of the local bar association even if the proceeds raised at the event will benefit various non-law related projects. Though it does not fall under the quasi-judicial Canon 4 exception, this activity is permitted under Canon 5 because there is no pre-event advertising of the judge’s attendance and participation, no direct fundraising or solicitation by the judge, and the judge will not be a featured speaker or guest of honor at the event. Five of the 12 Committee members believed that the contemplated conduct is not permitted. Whether the judge is allowed to expend campaign funds to sponsor the hole is a question of statutory construction and is beyond the scope of the Committee’s authority to answer. 4, 4D(2)(b), 5, 5C(3)(b) & Commentary.

A judge may not serve as a member of the wait staff at a charitable organization’s fundraiser luncheon when the wait staff will consist of only elected officials and contributions will be solicited and collected at the event by the non-judicial wait staff. This conduct is prohibited because the solicitation by the wait staff may cast doubt upon the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge, appear to a reasonable person to be coercive, or lead to frequent disqualifications. Further, the judge’s participation is not a permitted quasi-judicial activity under the 2008 amendments to the Code because the charitable organization is not an entity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; the event does not concern the law, the legal system or the administration of justice; and the funds raised will not be used for a law-related purpose. 4, 5, 5B, 5C, and 5C(3)(b).

A judge may not directly solicit local banks and businesses to assist in providing goods or services to a financial literacy program which educates families on money management issues because a judge may not personally or directly participate in the solicitation of funds unless the judge solicits funds from other judges over whom the judge has no supervisory or appellate authority. 2B, 4D(2)(a), 5D(3)(b)(i), 5D(3)(b)(iii), Commentary to Canon 4D(2) and 5C(3).

A judge may assist in planning fundraising activities for a child care program which provides supervised child care to parents and guardians who are attending court-related matters because a judge may assist an organization in planning fundraising as long as the judge does not personally participate in the solicitation of funds.  Similarly, a judge may make a recommendation to public and private fund-granting organizations on behalf of a program that provides supervised child care to parents and guardians who are attending court-related matters because a judge may do so regarding projects concerning the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.     4A(1) – (6), 4D(2), 5A(1) – (6), 5C(3)(b).

A judge may participate in a program or skit for an American Inn of Court if the presenting group competes for a “best skit” award which includes a monetary contribution to a charity of the group’s choice because it is a quasi-judicial activity that involves the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.  4.

The Chief Judge of a circuit may properly send a letter to “Members of the Bar,” soliciting lawyers’ participation in the “One Campaign” of The Florida Bar because such letters fall into the exception (created by 2008 amendments to the Code) to the prior prohibition on judges participating in fundraising activities on behalf of a specific category of organizations.  4, 4A(1)-(6), 4D, 4D(2), 4D(2)(b), 4D(2)(d), and 5.

A non-judge judicial candidate may attend a candidates’ forum to which all candidates are invited at which candidates are asked to pay for tables from which to distribute campaign literature, as long as the event is non-partisan and all candidates are required to pay the same amount to participate.  If the candidate is not a sitting judge, the candidate may participate in this event, even if the event is a fundraiser because Canon 7 of the Code is only applicable to sitting judges.  7.

A judge may participate in a walk-a-thon fundraiser to benefit a charitable organization and make a personal contribution to the cause as long as the judge does not solicit sponsorships.  2B, 4D(2)(a), 4D(2)(b), 5, 5A, 5B(2), 5C(3), 5C(3)(b), and 5C(3)(b)(i).

In exchange for waiving all or part of a community court-ordered community service, a judge may allow a probationer to complete a course sponsored by a private, for-profit organization.  Such waiver does not constitute lending the prestige of judicial office for the advancement of private interests of others or personally participating in fundraising for an organization because the judge allowed probationers to complete the course instead of requiring that they complete the course.  2B, 5C(3)(b)(i) and (iii).

Judge may not permit a local non-profit legal services corporation, in its fundraising campaign, to use a video interview of the judge filmed while in private practice, wherein the judge exhorts lawyers, law firms and corporations to partner with the legal services corporation.  Such use would amount to direct solicitation of funds by the judge or, at the very least, use the prestige of judicial office for fundraising.  4D(1); 4D(2)(b); 5C(3)(b)(i); and 5C(3)(b)(iii).

Judge may require DUI probationers to pay for and attend a victim impact panel course, and this is permissible even where the only course available is presented by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the fee paid to MADD will help fund its operations.  5B(2); now 5C(3)(b)(iii).

Judge may purchase an advertisement, including the judge’s name, that congratulates the recipient of an award in program materials to be distributed at a fundraising luncheon for a non-law related entity.  However, the purpose and ultimate use of such materials should be wholly congratulatory and the advertisement should not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s impartiality, interfere with the performance of the judge’s judicial duties, or lead to frequent disqualification.  4D(2)(b); 5(A); and 5(c)(3)(b)(iii).

Judge may not appear as a “dignitary guest” in a fundraising ballet production, sponsored by a ballet company which is organized as a charitable organization, nor may a judge allow the production to use the judge’s name and title to advertise the event.  4D(2)(b) and 5C(3)(b).

Judge may anonymously contribute financially to defray a candidate’s costs for a student government seat at a Florida university because such a candidacy does not involve public or political office or any partisan activity.  2B; 5; 5D(1)(a); 7; 7A(1)(e).
Judge may not solicit businesses for gift certificate and coupon donations to be used as rewards for good behavior by juveniles on probation because such action would constitute personal participation in the solicitation of funds.  Rewarding the juvenile might also reflect adversely on the judge’s ability to remain impartial at any future hearings involving the juvenile.  However, the judge may solicit others to volunteer their time to serve non-profit organizations so long as the solicitation cannot be perceived as coercive or a fund-raising mechanism.  2B; 4A; 4D(2)(a); 5C(3)(b)(ii-iii); Commentary to 5C.
Even though judge’s name would not be used in advertising or promotion, judge may not donate custom knives made by judge to fund-raising auctions held by Sheriff’s Office or community organizations because the knives would be marked with the judge’s distinctive and known logo. Thus, providing the knives could be viewed as personal solicitation as well as using the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising.  Also, the donations to the Sheriff could cast doubt on the judge’s impartiality.
Judge who sent out solicitation letters for a charity marathon prior to judge’s appointment to the bench may forward to the charity all donations received prior to his or her appointment. However, donations received after the judge’s appointment must be returned to the donors because the letters may have been perceived as a judicial solicitation. Also, as the marathon is intended to raise money for charity and there is a danger that the judge will be perceived as a “celebrity participant,” the judge may not run in the marathon. 2B and 4D(2)(a)
Judge may not produce and narrate a video in support of restoring a courtroom where video would be used by the bar to raise financial support for the restoration because such use would constitute improper reliance on the prestige of judicial office for fundraising. 4D(2)(a),5B
Judge may serve as a celebrity waiter or server at an annual breakfast for the local children’s alliance where breakfast has no fund-raising component, even if the organization charges a reasonable fee to defray costs. 5C(3)(b).
2005-07
Recedes from JEAC Opinion 2000-17
Judge may participate in fund-raising activities such as concession stand at children’s sporting events so long as the prestige of office is not used to advance the organization’s interest. 2(B), 5(A), 5(A)(2)&(3) and 5(C), 5(C)(3)(b)(I) & (iii), and Commentary to 5(A)
Judge could not participate as bell ringer for Salvation Army. 5C(3)(b)(i).
Judge may not endorse a proposal by a county bar association to appoint a public guardian where that endorsement will be used to solicit funds. However, mere endorsement is permissible. 4D(2)(d)
A judge may solicit funds on behalf of a law school alumni association from fellow judges over whom the judge exercises no appellate or supervisory authority. However, the results of the solicitation may not be published for the purpose of encouraging others to contribute because that publication would involve lending the prestige of judicial office to fundraising. 5
Judge may decorate a hall where a fund-raising event is to be held, assist in setting the value of items to be auctioned at the fundraising event, and donate items to be auctioned as long as the source of the donation is not noted. 5, 5C, 5C(3), 5C(3)(b)i, 5C(3)(b)iii
Judge may not serve as chairperson for a kickoff event for a fund-raising organization because such participation would involve the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising. 2(B), 5(C)(3)(b)(i) and (iii).
2000-17
receded by in Op. 05-07
Judge may not participate in his/her child’s school fund-raising activities by working in a concession stand, unless the role performed in the concession booth does not involve active solicitation of funds or selling goods. 2B, Commentary to 5A, 5C(3)(b) 1 & (iii) (amended by Op. 05-07 )
2000-06
superseded by Op. 10-31
Judge may not send letter to attorneys within the circuit soliciting them to join legal aid organizations or donate money in lieu of services because such a letter would involve the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising and give rise to the appearance of impropriety. 2A, 2B, 4D and 5C(3).
Judge may not participate in a charity fund-raising event by announcing winning tickets and describing the items won. 5C(3)
Judge may solicit other judges over whom no supervisory or appellate authority is exercised to participate in Habitat for Humanity project. See also 1983-04; 2003-15. 5A, 5C