January 5, 1977
Re: Canon 5C
This is in response to your recent letter inquiring whether it is necessary for you to resign your position as an officer of a family owned corporation upon commencing your duties as county judge.
You indicate that you were elected County Judge in September 1976 and will take office in January 1977. You further advise that you are president of a family owned corporation which has been operating the same business for some 46 years and that you have served in that capacity for the past three years.
The Committee has reviewed your inquiry and a majority (5-3) is of the opinion that the language of Canon 5C(1)(2) prohibits such activity. Canon 5C(1) and (2) provide:
"(1) A judge should refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on his impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of his judicial duties, exploit his judicial position, or involve him in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which he serves.
(2) Subject to the requirements of subsection (1), a judge may hold and manage investments, including, real estate, and engage in other remunerative activity, but should not serve as an officer, director, manager, advisor, or employee of any business."
The Commentary to Canon 5C(1)(2) indicates that the "effective date of compliance" provisions of the Code contains a qualification with respect to a judge engaging in a family business at the time this Code becomes effective. The qualification, however, is applicable only to "a person holding judicial office on the date this Code becomes effective". The effective date of the Code is September 30, 1973 (281 So.2d 21).
Accordingly, while it would seem that your continued service as president of a family owned corporation ought to turn on whether such activity creates a type of conflict as set forth in Canon 5C(1), nevertheless, the language of Section 5C(2) is explicit in its proscription.
The Committee's determination of your inquiry must, in the last analysis, be guided by the intent of the Canons, as reflected by the express language and the necessary implications without regard to the wisdom or propriety thereof.
We appreciate your inquiry and trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Boyer, Carlisle, Hewitt, Murphee, O'Connell, Sample, Stephenson