Opinion 79-16

December 4, 1979

Dear Judge:

This is in response to your inquiry as to the propriety of a recently appointed judge retaining his position as president of a local bar association. Enclosed is a copy of our recent Opinion Number 79-15, concluding that it is improper for a judge to seek election to the office of president of a bar association.

The Committee was unanimous that it is improper for a judge to also be the president of a bar association. One of our members pointed out that the president of a local bar association is called on to act as spokesman for its membership on matters effecting the local bar. it was mentioned that that member's local bar had censored (sic) a sheriff for his conduct in the handling of a prisoner, and had passed resolutions endorsing candidates who were seeking state wide or regional judicial offices. The president of a bar appoints the Legal Aid Committees. Some of our prior opinions have prohibited a judge from being on the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society, and that some of those same problems will arise with respect to a judge/president vis-a-vis the legal aid society. While the president of the bar may not have a great deal of control over these matters, his name is in the forefront of public attention. It would certainly appear that the judge is doing all these things.

That member goes on to say: "I believe that an effective bar association should be free to involve itself in the important issues which may involve its membership on appropriate occasions. It seems unlikely that a judge serving as president, would be equally as free to speak for the membership and be effective, as would an attorney who is not subject to the canons of judicial ethics.

Yours truly,

James T. Carlisle, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

cc: All Committee Members
Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court
Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission
Florida Bar Journal
All references to the inquiring judge deleted

Participating members: Judges Booth, Carlisle, Haverfield, Letts, Richardson, Stephenson, Turner and Samuel Powers, Attorney