November 19, 1981
This is in response to your inquiry of September 21, 1981, in which you asked whether you may continue to receive your pro rata share of legal fees from a now dissolved professional association of which you were a one-third stock holder. You also asked if you may receive income from the rental properties owned by the stockholders of the professional association in their individual capacity. in essence this last question is whether you may enjoy income from rental properties which you own with other lawyers. In Opinion 76-1 the Committee on Standards of Conduct governing Judges held it was permissible for a judge to receive a proportionate share of fees earned prior to becoming a judge. Of the seven members of the Committee who responded to your letter all were unanimous that this conduct is permissible.
As to the second question, in Opinion 76-20 and 78-19, we found no impropriety with similar transactions. The responding members of the Committee were, therefore, unanimous in holding there was no impropriety of your receiving your share of the rent from the investment properties owned by you and former members of your professional association. However, you are advised that Canon 5C(1) requires a judge to avoid financial and business dealings that involve him in frequent transactions with lawyers and persons likely to come before the court on which he serves.
You also, by way of a separate letter, inquired as to the propriety of the arrangement you made to dispose of your legal practice prior to becoming a general master. The function of the committee on Standards of Conduct Governing judges is to respond t inquiries as to prospective rather that past conduct. Therefore, the members of the Committee were unanimous in the opinion that we should not answer that question. You might find Opinion 74-4 and Opinion 76-6 of interest. Copies are enclosed.
James T. Carlisle, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court
Mr. William C. Clark, Chairman, Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission
Mrs. Linda H. Yates, Managing Editor, Florida Bar Journal
Hon Howard T. Markey, Chairman, Ethics Advisory Panel Judicial Conference of the U.S.
All references to the inquiring judge deleted
Participating members: Judges Booth, Carlisle, Hewitt, Letts, Nesbitt, Richardson, Turner and Samuel Powers, Attorney