January 19, 1989
Opinion No. 89/2
Disclosure and Recusal
The question you have posed turns upon the following facts. Prior to assuming the bench, you, in conjunction with a lawyer, owned a beneficial interest in a land trust. In attempting as a judicial officer to avoid an appearance of impropriety when such lawyer appears before you, you propose the sale of your interest in the trust to a third party with an expectation of receiving a benefit as the land is developed and sold.
It appears that you view the third party arrangement as a means to avoid recusal in instances when the lawyer/business associate appears before you.
The Committee has considered your inquiry and has concluded there is no technique available to you to escape your obligation to disclose and, if required, recuse consistent with Canon 3.
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).
Richard H. Frank, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating Members: Judges Green, Tolton, Booth, Dell, Frank, Shutter, Goldstein, and Page, Esquire.
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. Walter K. Stapleton, 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
Mr. Richard Kuhn, Court Administrator, Lee County
Hon. Thomas H . Barkdull , Jr ., Third District Court of Appeal
Ms. Georgeanne Marsh, Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association