FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2004-23 (Election)1
Date of Issue: June 16, 2004

ISSUES

Whether a judicial candidate may purchase a table with campaign funds, distribute campaign literature, and meet voters at a county-wide, non-partisan event?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring judicial candidate has been invited to participate in a county-wide, non-partisan event that will give participants and candidates for elected offices, not just judicial office, the opportunity to meet voters from throughout the county. All candidates may purchase a table for $200, which entitles the candidate to a table and one ticket that is valid for food and voting in a straw poll. Literature for only one candidate may be handed out at a table. Committee or association tables are permitted to hand out literature for their committee or association but not candidate literature.

DISCUSSION

If the event is a non-partisan event, if the funds used to purchase a table are not used in any manner to fund a political party, if all candidates pay the same price for a table, and if the event is not a fund-raiser and the $200 fee is solely to defray the costs for the event, it is permissible for the judicial candidate to participate.

The committee stresses that participation is proper only so long as it is a non-partisan event because partisan politics have no place in judicial elections. See In re: Alley, 699 So. 2d 1369 (Fla. 1997); JEAC Op. 02-13(Election). Section 105.071, Fla. Stat., strictly limits the political activity of a candidate for judicial office and prohibits participation by judicial candidates in any partisan political party activities or campaigning as a member of any political party. The only permitted partisan political activity on the part of the judicial candidate is exercise of the candidate's right to vote.

So long as the candidate does not comment on his/her affiliation with any political party, such activity is permissible.

REFERENCES

In re: Alley, 699 So. 2d 1369 (Fla. 1997)
JEAC Op. 02-13(Election)
Section 105.071, Fla. Stat.

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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, Judge McFerrin Smith, III, Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Esq.


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.