FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2004-05
Date of Issue: January 22, 2004

COUNTY COURT JUDGE ACCEPTING APPOINTMENT BY LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY TO ITS ADVISORY COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMAN

ISSUES

Whether a County Court Judge may accept an appointment from a local legislative body to its advisory Commission on the Status of Woman.

ANSWER: Yes. if the Commission is concerned with the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and the group is not an advocacy group.

FACTS

The inquiring County Court Judge inquires as to the propriety of being appointed by the local legislative body as a member of an Advisory Commission on the Status of Woman. The judge has informed the Committee that the Commission is responsible for advising the County Government as to the "economic, social and legal status of woman in [the] County and making applicable recommendations." The Judge also advises the Committee that the Commission has been dormant for a number of years and cannot enlighten the Committee as to specific examples of recent projects or recommendations.

DISCUSSION

Canon 4D of the Code of Judicial Conduct states in part that a judge may serve as a member, officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.

Canon 5C(2) provides that a judge may accept appointment to a governmental commission or committee that is concerned with the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.

Previous Committee opinions have found it proper for a judge to serve on advisory councils. The Committee has given approval for judges to serve on an alcohol, drug abuse and mental health district planning council (JEAC Opinions 88-24 and 88-30); on the board of directors of a DUI Countermeasure school (JEAC Opinion 93-23); in an advisory capacity on the regional juvenile detention center's community advisory board (JEAC Opinion 94-04); as a member of district juvenile justice board (JEAC Opinion 94-31); as a member of the Victims' Assistance Advisory Council (JEAC Opinion 98-26) and a member of an ad hoc task force created to assist and facilitate the implementation of recent legislation (JEAC Opinion 99-12).

However, in Opinion 2001-14 the Committee opined that a judge may not serve on Domestic Violence Council which operated a Batterer's Intervention Program and which appeared to have become an advocacy group. In rendering its opinion the Committee relied upon Opinions 98-08 (judge belonging to victim's rights council that sponsored training for judges; review judicial rulings and decisions relating to sentences, referrals to batterers' intervention programs, the ordering of child support, etc.; and supports bills and legislation) and 94-38 (judge handling all battery cases arising out of domestic arising out of domestic violence and being a member of the Domestic Violence Task Force created by the Governor and chaired by the chair of a local domestic violence shelter).

Therefore, it is the opinion of the Committee that the inquiring judge may be appointed and serve on the Commission on the Status of Woman. However the Committee cautions the inquiring judge that this opinion is predicated on the fact that the commission is advisory in nature, does not advocate a position or advocate on behalf of individuals, and is concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.

REFERENCES

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 4D and 5C(2).

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 88-24, 88-30, 93-23, 94-04, 94-31, 94-38, 98-26, 99-12 and 01-14.

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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 Richard R. Townsend, Acting Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Post Office Box 1018, Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043.

Participating Members:
Judge Robert Benton, Judge Karen Cole, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Phyllis Kotey, Judge Melanie May, Judge Jose Rodriguez, Judge McFerrin Smith, III, Judge Jeffrey D. Swartz, Judge Emerson R. Thompson, Jr., and Judge Richard R. Townsend.


Copies furnished to:
Justice Peggy Quince
All Committee Members
Execute Director of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)