FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2004-11 (Election) 1
Date of Issue: February 27, 2004

ISSUES

May a judicial candidate who has no opponent attend and speak at Democratic and Republican club meetings?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring candidate for judicial office has filed all the necessary documents, opened a campaign account, named a treasurer, and established a committee of responsible persons for the candidate's campaign. At present, the candidate does not have an opponent. The candidate has been invited, along with all candidates for elected office, to speak at Democratic and Republican club meetings. The judicial candidate asks whether it is appropriate to attend these club meetings.

DISCUSSION

This question was addressed in Florida JEAC Opinions 00-12 and 96-11. We stated that judicial candidates could attend political functions to speak about their candidacy as long as the function was not a fundraiser, and the other candidates, if any, were also invited. Thus, the judicial candidate may attend and speak even though the candidate has no opposition. The judicial candidate may not, however, attend if the political party function is a social gathering where the candidate would not speak to the body, but would merely have the opportunity to speak with other guests. Fla. JEAC Op. 00-26. At political party club meetings, the candidate may engage only in activities referred to in Canon 7C(3). In re Angel, 2004 WL 306073 (Fla. Feb. 19, 2004)(holding that partisan political activity during a judicial campaign is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and warrants a reprimand.)

We suggest that the judicial candidate carefully review Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, sections 105.071 and 105.09, Florida Statutes, and In re Kinsey, 842 So. 2d 77 (Fla. 2003), before attending the political party club meetings.

REFERENCES

In re Angel, 2004 WL 306073 (Fla. Feb. 19, 2004);

In re Kinsey, 842 So. 2d 77 (Fla. 2003);

Florida Statutes 105.071; 105.09;

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct: Canon 7;

Fla. JEAC Ops.: 00-26; 00-12; and 96-11.

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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 Emerson Thompson (Subcommittee Chair), Judge McFerrin Smith, and Marjorie G. Graham, Esquire.


Copies furnished to:
Justice Peggy Quince
Thomas D. Hall, Clerk of Supreme Court
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)

1 The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has appointed an Election Practices Subcommittee. The purpose of the subcommittee is to provide immediate responses to campaign questions in instances where the normal Committee procedure would not provide a response in time to be useful to the inquiring candidate or judge. Opinions designated with the "(Election)" notation are opinions of the Election Practices Subcommittee of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee and have the same authority as an opinion of the Committee.