Opinion 78-1

February 21, 1978

Re: Canon 7

Dear Judge:

This is in response to your inquiry concerning the propriety under Canon 7(b)(2) of your proposed letter announcing your candidacy for re-election to the attorneys in your area; the proposed letter being as follows:

"I am taking this means of informing the members of the Bar that I am a candidate for re-election to the office of Circuit Judge, ___________ Judicial Circuit.

The seat for which I will qualify is the one I presently hold.

I am making my plans known at this time so as to afford you the opportunity to evaluate my performance as incumbent circuit judge and my ability to continue to meet the challenges of the job.

With 10+ years of Active practice at the trial and appellate level in virtually every field of law, and with 7+ years on the circuit bench at the trial and appellate level in virtually every field of law, I am confident of my ability to continue to get the job done. I will continue to bring to this position a quality which is essential to the fair and impartial administration of justice---objectivity.

I will make every effort to contact you personally between now and election day (9 12-78) but should I for any reason fail to do so, I now personally solicit your vote and your Active support.

P.S. I am taking the liberty of enclosing a contribution card. Should you be willing to make a financial contribution, it will be deeply appreciated; but even more our thoughts and active assistance in the campaign are needed."

The majority of the Committee is of the opinion that your letter, except for the postscript soliciting campaign contributions, does not violate Canon 7 or any other Canon. The majority agrees that your pledge to bring objectivity o the position, while not adopting the exact verbiage of Canon 7B(1)(c), is within the spirit of the Canon and not proscribed thereby. One member disagrees, being of the opinion that paragraph four of your letter goes beyond the strictures of 7B(1)(c). Three members opine that your personal solititaion (sic) of the "Active support" of the attorneys violates 7B(2). All of the members agree that the postscript to the letter soliciting financial contributions to your campaign is prohibited by Canon 7(2). It is noted, however, that the Canon allows such solicitation to be done indirectly through a committee. Two members recommend amendment of the Canons to permit judges to do directly that which is now allowed indirectly.

You also inquire as to whether Canon 7(b)(2) is applicable to an attorney, not an incumbent judge, who is seeking a judicial office. A majority of the Committee believes that it is indeed applicable to an attorney candidate, and this view is supported by this Committee's Opinion 76-7. Your query also asks our advice as to whom a violation of Canon 7 should be reported. This Committee has traditionally limited its scope to giving opinions as to the propriety of anticipated actions by the inquiring judge. It will be noted, however, that the Preface to the Code of Judicial Conduct as adopted by the Florida Supreme Court on July 25, 1973 contains the following comment: "Under Section 17A, Article V of the Florida Constitution [now Section 12, Article V], the Judicial Qualifications Commission is charged with the responsibility of enforcing these standards." In re the Florida Bar - Code of Judicial Conduct, 281 So.2d 21, 23 (Fla. 1973). But see, State ex rel. Turner v. Earle, 295 So.2d 609, 619 (Fla. 1974). You inquire in addition as to possible sanctions for violation of the Canons. The Judicial Qualifications Commission is empowered under Section 12, Article V of the Florida Constitution to recommend either

We appreciate your inquiry and trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Sincerely yours,

Tyrie A. Boyer, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges


Participating members: Judges Boyer, Carlisle, Haverfield, Hewitt, Murphee, Sample and Stephenson