October 26, 1984
This inquiry is related to your previous inquiry concerning disqualification of an incumbent judge prior to the election in cases involving his political opponent (see Opinion No. 84-12). The present inquiry concerns disqualification after the election and asks whether the judge should disqualify himself in cases involving the attorney who opposed him for reelection. The majority of the Committee responds in the affirmative.
The majority of the Committee, seven of the ten members responding, recommends that you do disqualify yourself for a period of time, perhaps two years, until you believe that, considering all the circumstances of which you are more aware than we on the Committee, your impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned. This recommendation is based on Canon 3C(1) of the Code, which provides that a judge should disqualify himself in all proceedings "in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Thus, even though no actual personal animosity exists between former political opponents, the public, attorneys, and litigants may be concerned that a judge will either rule too harshly, or "bend over backwards" to rule favorably, in a cases involving his former opponent.
Three other members of the committee would not recommend disqualification of a judge who has won a contested election in cases involving the judge's prior political opponent but would leave the matter entirely to the conscience of the judge. This minority view is that each case calls for individual consideration and that, depending on the circumstances, disqualification may not be required.
The Committee wishes to thank you for your inquiry and hopes this response has been of assistance to you.
Anne C. Booth, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
All reference to the inquiring judge is deleted from the copies sent to the following individuals.
Mr. Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida
Linda Yates, Managing Editor, The Florida Bar Journal
Mark Hulsey, Esq., Chairman, Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Hon. Howard T. Markey, Chairman, Ethics Advisory Panel of the Judicial Conference of the United States .
Jeffrey M. Shaman, Esquire, Director, Center for Judicial Conduct Organizations
Ms. Jean Underhill, Librarian, Broward County Law Library
Mr. Robert Wallace, Librarian, Dade County Law Library
Mr. Brian Polley, Librarian, Supreme Court of Florida
Participating members: Judges Booth, Carlisle, Dell, Green, Grube, Hewitt,
Letts, Tedder, and
Turner, and Attorney Samuel J. Powers, Jr.