April 30, 1987
Opinion No. 87/2
Canon 3C(1)(c) and (d)
Recusal due to wife's employment with school board
This letter is in response to your inquiry dated February 25, 1987. You asked whether you should recuse in cases involving the school board because of your wife's employment as a first grade teacher. You point out in your letter that you do not believe that any of your decisions would affect your wife's position as a teacher. Our opinion is based on the assumption that your wife has no direct financial interest in the outcome of any of the cases coming before you and that her relative success of failure as a first grade teacher would not be affected by your rulings. We understand that you are principally concerned with the possibility of an appearance of impropriety.
We direct your attention to Canon 3C(1)(c) and Canon 3C(1)(d). Based upon the assumptions set forth above a majority of the Committee concludes that you wife's employment does not come within Canon 3C(1) and that you would not be required to automatically disqualify yourself from cases involving the school board. However, since the possibility of an appearance of impropriety exists, the Committee with one member dissenting, believes that you should notify the parties of your wife's employment and request that counsel and the parties inform you of their position in writing concerning your continued service on the case.
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, Shutter, Tedder and Attorney F. Shields McManus
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