FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2012-18 (Election)
Date of Issue: June 26, 2012

ISSUE

May a judicial candidate accept and publicize an endorsement from a non-judicial elected partisan official in the official’s individual capacity, when the official qualified to run for re-election in the same election cycle as the judicial candidate, but no other candidates qualified for the official’s office, such that the official automatically will retain that office without an election, will not appear on the ballot, and will not be campaigning?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring judicial candidate desires to accept and publicize an endorsement from a non-judicial elected partisan official in the official’s individual capacity.  The official qualified to run for re-election in the same election cycle as the inquiring judicial candidate.  No other candidates qualified for the official’s office, such that the official automatically will retain that office without an election, will not appear on the ballot, and will not be campaigning. 

    

 

DISCUSSION

A judicial candidate may accept an endorsement from a non-judicial elected official who is not campaigning for election, but only if the partisan aspects of the official’s position are not mentioned.  Fla. JEAC Op. 10-14 (Election).  In JEAC Opinion 06-21, this Committee explained that the following conditions must be met for a judicial candidate to accept an endorsement from a non-judicial elected official:

    
  1. The endorsement is in fact from an individual and not the political party the person represents;
  2. The official is not also campaigning for re-election;
  3. The partisan aspects of the official’s position are not mentioned; and
  4. The content of the advertisement referencing such endorsement is not otherwise violative of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

 

Here, because the non-judicial elected partisan official will not appear on the ballot and will not be campaigning for re-election, the judicial candidate’s acceptance and publication of the official’s endorsement in the official’s individual capacity reasonably will not create the appearance that the judicial candidate is running as part of a slate or is supporting a political party.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. JEAC Ops. 10-14, 06-21.

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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 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. See 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. See Id.

The Committee expresses no view on whether any proposed conduct of an inquiring judge is consistent with substantive law which governs any proceeding over which the inquiring judge may preside. The Committee only has authority to interpret the Code of Judicial Conduct, and therefore its opinions deal only with the issue of whether the proposed conduct violates a provision of that Code.

For further information, contact: Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (US) LLP, 777 South Flagler Drive, Suite 1900 West, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401-6161.

Participating Members:
Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Robert T. Benton, Dean Bunch, Esquire, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Jonathan D. Gerber, Judge T. Michael Jones, Judge Barbara Lagoa, Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Judge Jose′ Rodriguez, Judge C. McFerrin Smith, III, Judge Richard R. Townsend, and Judge Dorothy Vaccaro.


Copies furnished to:
Inquiring judge (Name of the Inquiring Judge deleted)
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