December 21, 1987
Opinion No. 87/24
This letter is in response to your inquiry dated August 21, 1987, received September 18, 1987.
A law firm purchased your one-half interest in an office building owned by you, with you carrying a first mortgage, payable monthly. The purchase price was the fair market value, interest is consistent with existing rates and all standard real estate practices were followed.
You would like, at the outset of all hearings involving that particular law firm, to publish the above mentioned transaction and offer to recuse yourself on any party's motion. You request the Committee's opinion on this inquiry.
Nine of the ten members of the Committee responded to your letter. Six members felt that you should recuse yourself and not sit on cases involving the law firm/mortgagor. I am of the opinion that members relied on Opinion 85/8 and I enclose a copy for your information.
Three of the responding members disagreed, relying on the minority opinion in 85/8, and stated you should disclose your relationship and recuse yourself on motion of any party. These members feel that the majority view is a far more involved transaction and should not be extended to your limited financial involvement with the lawyer/mortgagor. Opinions 82/12 and 74/7, copies enclosed, were cited by the three dissenting members.
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,
George W. Tedder, Jr.
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
Brooke S. Kennerly, Executive Director, 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