FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Opinion Number: 2001-01
Date of Issue: February, 19, 2001
MAY A JUDGE ENDORSE A CANDIDATE FOR THE FLORIDA BAR BOARD OF GOVERNORS?ANSWER: No.
The inquiring judge has received a request from a local attorney who is a candidate for The Florida Bar Board of Governors. The request asks for the judge's support and for use of the judge's name as an endorsement of the candidacy.
This inquiry asks whether a circuit judge may sign such an endorsement.
In Florida JEAC Opinion 79-6, the inquiring judge asked whether he could endorse or nominate a lawyer for the position of delegate to the American Bar Association. This Committee was divided in its response. The opinion ultimately issued recognized the prohibition in Canon 2B providing that a judge "should not lend the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others." Nevertheless, the majority of the Committee believed that the nomination by the inquiring judge would be made "solely as a member of the American Bar Association, and that the prestige of office does not enter into it." The Committee also felt that nomination of an American Bar Association delegate would be supported by Canon 4A providing that a judge may "participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice." Three members of the Committee at that time believed that the action would be barred by Canon 2B.
This Committee now believes unanimously that it should recede from Opinion 79-6. The Code of Judicial Conduct, as noted above, expressly prohibits a judge from lending "the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others. . . ." See Canon 2B. Although, under Canon 4 of the Code, a judge may engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, the Committee does not believe that Canon 4 always overrides the prohibition of Canon 2B. If a judge were to provide an endorsement such as that requested in the present inquiry, the judge would have no control over how the candidate utilized such an endorsement. The judge would, accordingly, run a great risk that his or her name would be used in a prominent way to support a candidacy to the Board of Governors. Although The Florida Bar Board of Governors clearly engages in certain activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, the Committee finds that the Board is, at the very least, a quasi-political organization.
Therefore the Committee concludes that a judge should not endorse a candidate for the Board of Governors, and the Committee expressly recedes from Opinion 79-6 to the extent that is contrary to the view expressed in the present opinion.
Florida Code of Judicial Conduct: Canons 2B, 4A.
Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 79-6
The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the Committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So.2d 834 (Fla. 1997). However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualification Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith. Id.
For further information, contact Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr., Chairman, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, 301 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1850
Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr.
Judge Gisela Cardonne
Judge Lisa D. Kahn
Judge David Levy
Judge Scott J. Silverman
Judge C. McFerrin Smith, III
Judge Jeffrey D. Swartz
Judge Emerson Thompson
Judge Richard R. Townsend