Receded from in Opinion 85-11
March 13, 1985
Opinion No. 85/4
Canons 2B, 3, 5A, 5B(1), 5B(2), 5C
You have recently taken office as a county judge and inquire as follows:
1. I am President-Elect of District 5 of B'nai B'rith, a district which includes seven southeastern states, and will assume the presidency in July at the annual convention. May I serve as president?
2. I serve as a National Commissioner for the B'nai B'rith Youth Program, a commission which sets policy and direction and puts forward its financial needs to the international body for funding, as well as establishes fund-raising policies, recommendations and programs to be implemented by the B'nai B'rith professional fund-raising staff. Responsibilities include speaking before groups with respect to goals of the organization without directly soliciting funds. May I serve as National Commissioner?
3. May I continue to serve as Vice Chairman of the National Fund-Raising Cabinet, providing my activities are limited to the setting of the policy recommendations and programs and do not include the direct solicitation of monies?
4. May I appear at a fund-raising function and speak in my official organizational capacity provided I do not solicit funds?
5. May I serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the B'nai B'rith Senior Citizens Housing Corporation, a corporation responsible for securing HUD monies to build affordable senior housing, and which I represented as counsel for eight years?
6. May I be part of the Management Corporation of the aforesaid housing corporation, which would derive income from such services?
7. May I continue to serve as a member of the U.S. Israel Trade Corporation, a nonprofit corporation that has been an active participant in the twin-city movement, matching local cities with cities in Israel?
8. May I serve on the board of the Florida Creative Science and Technology Center, Inc., a nonprofit group which tries to advance the cause of science to young people?
The Committee responds in the negative to questions one through six, and in the affirmative to questions seven and eight, above.
In Opinion No. 75/26, the Committee stated that a circuit judge could serve as Chairman of the Regional Board of B'nai B'rith but also stated that the judge should not participate in any fund-raising activities and that, since the Chairman of the Regional Board of B'nai B'rith has final authority to approve the overall planning of the fund-raising campaign, it may be difficult to avoid activities which conflict with Canon 5B(2). The opinion further states that a judge should not serve if it is likely the organization would be engaged in adversarial proceedings that would ordinarily come before him or any court and that, should the organization become involved in litigation, the judge would have to resign, not only as Chairman, but from the organization itself. The conclusion was that, although the goals of the league are commendable and would not in themselves create a reasonable ground for impropriety, that, as Chairman of the Regional Board, the judge might be placed in a position of risk as to conflict. Nevertheless, the majority in Opinion 75/26 finds "no impropriety per se in a judge serving as Chairman of the organization."
The activities proposed in your inquiry go beyond those in our prior opinion, in that it appears that you would be more highly placed in the organization and, although not personally soliciting funds, would nonetheless be appearing at fund-raising functions and lending the prestige of the judicial office to those activities.
The majority of the Committee recommend that you not accept the presidency or participate as the National Commissioner for the Youth Program, Vice Chairman for the Fund-Raising Cabinet, or serve on the Board of Directors of the Senior Citizens Housing Corporation or the Management Corporation, but that you may serve on the U.S. Israel Trade Corporation and the Florida Creative Science Technology Center, Inc., both nonprofit groups, as a member of member of the Board of Directors pursuant to Canon 5B.
The only member of the Committee expressing the view that you could serve as District President and National Commissioner does so on the basis that you would accept these positions in a limited capacity without permitting the use of your judicial title, not signing any fund-raising letters, and not being a speaker or guest of honor at any fund-raising events. This member would also require that your activities as officer be regulated so as to not conflict or give the appearance of interfering with judicial duties, and would require that you delegate some of the responsibilities and duties of the office to other officers.
One member casts a negative vote on all of your questions, stating that you would be "on the road or in the air 85% of the time," and "as a neophyte judge" you are required by the Canons to devote full time to judicial duties, which cannot be done with "the plethora of activities" here contemplated.
Another member of the Committee, in voting that you should not accept the presidency of the district organization, would do so based on the difficulty of separating your distinguished status as judge from the fund-raising and political activities of that organization and, for the same reason, would discourage acceptance of membership on the Board of Directors of the Senior Citizens Housing Corporation, the Management Corporation, and the U.S. Israel Trade Corporation. This member would, however, agree that the Florida Creative Science and Technology, Inc. would appear to create little risk of conflict and would find membership on the Board of Directors of that organization not inappropriate.
As to membership on the Board of Directors of the Senior Citizens Housing Corporation and the Management Corporation, referred to above, since these are not nonprofit or charitable groups, Canon 5C prohibits a judge from serving as a director. It also appears that both of these organizations would require considerable time and active involvement and could also result in the use of the judicial office to advance the special interest of others. In Opinion 81/10 and Opinion 81/7, this Committee held that a judge should not be a director of a condominium or townhouse association, or president of a village association because of the litigious nature of these groups and the use of the implicit judicial office.
The Committee appreciates your inquiry and hopes that this response has been of assistance to you.
Anne C. Booth, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Booth, Goldstein, Dell, Turner, Tedder,
Green, Grube and Letts
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
Kathleen T. Phillips, 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