FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2012-21 (Election)1
Date of Issue: June 27, 2012

ISSUES

May a judicial candidate use the endorsement of a non-judicial elected official who is opposed by an individual officially qualified as a write-in candidate?

ANSWER: No.

FACTS

The inquiring judicial candidate is in a contested judicial election.  Early in the judicial candidate’s campaign, the inquiring judicial candidate received the endorsement of a county-wide elected official who was unopposed prior to the end of qualifying period. Toward the end of the qualifying period, the elected official was challenged, in that an individual qualified to run against the elected official as a write-in candidate.  As a write-in candidate, the individual’s name challenging the non-judicial elected official will not appear on the ballot; instead a blank line will be placed beneath the elected official’s name on the ballot. 

The inquiring judge desires to continue to use and publicize the endorsement from this non-judicial elected partisan official who is opposed by an individual officially qualified as a write-in candidate. 

    

 

DISCUSSION

In Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 06-21 (Election), this Committee held that a judicial candidate may not accept an endorsement from a non-judicial elected official who is campaigning for election.  Because the non-judicial elected official is campaigning for re-election against an individual who qualified as a write-in candidate, the judicial candidate may not accept the endorsement.  Fla. JEAC Op. 10-14.

The subject facts are distinguishable from those in the recent Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 12-18 allowing an endorsement for a judicial candidate by a non-judicial elected official.  In that opinion, the elected non-judicial official providing the endorsement is not campaigning in the judicial candidate’s election cycle, the qualifying period is over, no one registered as an opponent, write-in or otherwise, and as a result, the elected non-judicial official’s name will not appear on the ballot because the elected official automatically retained his position without an election.

    

 

REFERENCES

Fla. JEAC Ops. 12-18, 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

 

1.The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has appointed an Election Practices Subcommittee. The purpose of this Subcommittee is to give 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. Although the opinion was prepared by the Subcommittee on an expedited basis, it received full Committee review and approval before being issued. 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 whole Committee.