October 17, 1986
Opinion No. 86/15
Canons 4C and 5B(2)
Public support of bond issue
This will confirm our telephone conversation of October 9, 1986, wherein I furnished you with a telephone response to your inquiry dated September 24, 1986. You asked whether judges of _______ could speak at public functions, including political functions to promote a bond issue for the construction of a criminal justice facility in __________.
Several of the members of the Committee expressed the view that the activity described in your letter presents a close question on whether such conduct constitutes fund raising which Canon 5B(2) prohibits. However, based on Opinions 78/14 and 84/20 issued by the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges (copies attached), the committee concluded that a judge may speak to various groups, including political groups in support of a bond issue for the construction of a criminal justice facility. The committee cautioned a judge speaking at a political function should expressly limit his or her appearance to promoting the bond issue and disclaim any implication that the appearance before the group is intended as support for any of the candidates or the political party that might be involved.
I also advised that a majority of the members expressed concern regarding the proposed news release which states, "The Circuit Court and County Judges are actively promoting the November 4, bond referendum for criminal justice facilities. Obviously, in the event of a challenge to the bond issue, it would appear from the news release that none of the judges in ________ could be impartial. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the judges should express their views individually concerning the bond issue. For your information, one committee member expressed concern over the use of public funds (use of court stationery) to support the bond issue. I mention this for your information since the Committee did not formally address this question.
We have based our opinion on the information furnished in your letter. The 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 issued by the committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct for Judges 327 So2d 5 (Fla. 1976).
We appreciate your inquiry and trust that the foregoing information will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
John W. Dell
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Blanchard, Booth, Dell, Frank, Goldstein,
Green, Grube Tedder, Turner and Attorney M. Craig Massey
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