May 5, 1988


Opinion 88/10

Employment of wife as mediator
Canon 2B and 3C

Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated February 12, 1998

Dear Judge

The Committee's response to your request for an advisory opinion stemming from your wife's interest in becoming one of two mediators employed by ________ County in its program to mediate child custody and support cases, is as follows:

1. A majority of the Committee's members share a concern that it will be assumed that you have played a role in your wife's employment thus creating a potential for the appearance of impropriety in violation of Canon 2B. It is obvious, therefore, that you must isolate yourself from any aspect of the decision leading to your wife's employment and take whatever steps are available to dispel any suggestion that you had a hand in the matter.

2. If your wife is employed as one of the mediators, her employment should not have the effect of impairing you through excessive recusal in the execution of your judicial duties. See Canon 3C.

3. Two members of the Committee have expressed the view that your inquiry is in an area beyond the Committee's authority and that the exercise of its advisory role would be appropriate only in responding to an inquiry posed by a judge who is involved in the process of employing your wife. The minority views are grounded upon the premise that you are not confronted with a potential ethical question because of your wire's independent right to pursue employment, and if it were your wife seeking our advice, we would be without authority to respond.

4. At an earlier time, pursuant to your telephone inquiry, I furnished you with opinions numbered 76/12, 77/4, 77/2, 84/2, 84/15, 85/2 and 87/11.

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).

Cordially yours,

Richard H. Frank, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

cc: All Committee Members

Participating Members: Judges Booth, Dell, Frank, Goldstein, Green, Levy, Shutter and Attorney Page

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