FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2008-08
Date of Issue: March25, 2008

ISSUE

Whether the Code of Judicial Conduct requires a civil traffic infraction hearing officer to resign in order to run for a position as a county court judge.

ANSWER: No.

FACTS

The Inquirer presently holds a position as a civil traffic infraction hearing officer. The Inquirer wishes to run for a position as a county court judge. The Inquirer asks whether the Code of Judicial Conduct requires that the Inquirer resign in order to run for a position as a county court judge.

DISCUSSION

The Code of Judicial Conduct applies to civil traffic infraction hearing officers. The introductory paragraph entitled “Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct” specifies that “[a]nyone, whether or not a lawyer, who performs judicial functions, including but not limited to a civil traffic hearing officer, court commissioner, general or special magistrate, domestic relations commissioner, child support hearing officer, or judge of compensation claims, shall, while performing judicial functions, conform with Canons 1, 2A, and 3, and such other provisions of this Code that might reasonably be applicable depending on the nature of the judicial function performed.” The Committee has interpreted this provision as applicable to a traffic magistrate. Fla. JEAC Op. 96-5.

Canon 7A(2) provides that “[a] judge shall resign from judicial office upon becoming a candidate for a non-judicial office either in a primary or in a general election, except that the judge may continue to hold judicial office while being a candidate for election to or serving as a delegate in a state constitutional convention if the judge is otherwise permitted by law to do so.” This provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct does not require a traffic magistrate who intends to become a candidate for judicial office to resign. The Committee is not asked to interpret section 99.012, Florida Statutes, or any other statute.

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 7A(2).
Fla. JEAC Op. 96-5.

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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 Judge Lisa Davidson, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, The Moore Justice  Center, 2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, FL 32940.

Participating Members:
Judge Robert T. Benton, II, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Kerry I. Evander, Judge T. Michael Jones, Judge Michael Raiden,  Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg, Judge McFerrin Smith, Judge Richard R. Townsend, Judge Dorothy Vaccaro, Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Esquire & Patricia E. Lowry, 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
Inquiring Judge (Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)