FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2016-07 (Election)1 Amended2
Date of Issue: June 6, 2016

ISSUE

May a judicial candidate who is married to a judge utilize the judge’s photograph in campaign advertising?

ANSWER: Yes, so long as the judge’s position is not identified and the advertising does not imply that the judge actively endorses the spouse’s candidacy.

 

FACTS

This inquiry comes from a judicial candidate who is married to a sitting judge. The candidate asks whether it is permissible to include in campaign literature a photograph of the couple together. The photograph will not depict the judge in a robe and the literature will not identify the spouse as a judge or even mention the spouse’s name.

 

DISCUSSION

We conclude that this situation falls squarely within two previous opinions of this Committee, Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions 06-13 and 07-13. The latter opinion was issued at the behest of a judge whose spouse was running for office but would apply equally to judicial candidates who are not incumbents. These opinions do emphasize the extremely limited role appropriate for the judicial spouse. For example, the advertisements must not imply that the judge actively endorses the spouse’s candidacy, and the judge must not attend campaign functions with the spouse.

In this case, the Committee’s opinion is based upon the fact that the inquiring judge makes clear that the spouse/judge will not in any way be identified as a judge, either by appearing in a robe in the photograph or by having the judge’s name included in the material.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. JEAC Ops. 07-13, 06-13

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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.    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 Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So. 2d 834 (Fla. 1997).

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 whether the proposed conduct violates a provision of that Code.

For further information, contact Judge Barbara Lagoa, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Third District Court of Appeal, 2001 S.W. 117th Avenue, Miami, FL 33175.

Participating Members:
Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson, Judge W. Joel Boles, Dean Bunch, Esquire, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Miguel de la O, Judge James A. Edwards, Judge Barbara Lagoa, Judge Spencer D. Levine, Judge K. Douglas Henderson, Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Judge Michael Raiden.


Copies furnished to:
Inquiring judge (Name of the Inquiring Judge deleted)
Justice Charles T. Canady, Justice Liaison
John A Tomasino, Clerk of Supreme Court
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the Judicial Qualifications Committee
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. 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.

2. This opinion corrects a formatting error specific to Election Opinions.