FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2006-10
Date of Issue: April 24, 2006

ISSUES

Whether the inquiring judge may assent to a congratulatory announcement in the Florida Bar News by his/her former law firm pertaining to the inquiring judge’s recent appointment to the bench.

ANSWER: No.

Whether the inquiring judge may assent to mailing by his/her former law firm a congratulatory announcement to clients of the law firm pertaining to the inquiring judge’s recent appointment to the bench.

ANSWER: No.

FACTS

The inquiring judge’s former law firm wishes to mail an announcement to clients of the law firm concerning the inquiring judge’s recent appointment to the bench.  In addition, the law firm wishes to publish the same announcement in the Florida Bar News. 

The announcement would state in pertinent part:  

THE LAW FIRM OF ___IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT {NAME OF INQUIRING JUDGE} HAS BEEN APPOINTED COUNTY COURT JUDGE OF THE _____ JUDICIAL CIRCUIT BY GOVERNOR JEB BUSH

The inquiring judge asks the Committee if he/she may approve the publication in the Bar News and mailing the announcement to the former law firm’s clients.

DISCUSSION

Canon 2B of the Code of Judicial Conduct states in part that “a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.” By permitting the announcement, the inquiring judge would be lending the prestige of his/her ascension to the bench to advance the private interests of the former law firm. In addition, sending the announcement to the law firm’s clients would give the appearance that the former law firm holds a special position of influence over the judge. 

          In JEAC Opinion 95-44, the Committee opined that a judge could not write a positive letter about the education received at his alma mater when the judge’s comments would be printed and displayed in various local real estate businesses.  Because the school planned to use those printed letters in the manner described, the judge was essentially lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the school. The Committee stated that this activity is prohibited under Canon 2.

For the reasons stated, it is the decision of the Committee that the inquiring judge cannot approve mailing or publication of any announcements by the judge’s former law firm.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 2B

Fla. JEAC Op. 95-44

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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 the judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and 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 Qualifications 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 Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Esq., Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, 11211 Prosperity Farms Road, Oakpark, Suite D129, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410.

Participating Members:
Judge Robert Benton, Judge Karen Cole, Judge Lisa Davidson, Ervin Gonzalez, Esquire, Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Esquire, Judge Michael Raiden, Judge Jose Rodriguez, Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg, Judge McFerrin Smith, III, Judge Emerson R. Thompson, Jr., Judge Richard R. Townsend, and Judge Dorothy L. Vaccaro.


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