December 4, 1989

Opinion No. 89/21
Canons 2, 5

Member of organization

Dear Judge

Your inquiry posed two questions:

1) My father is a retired Circuit Court Judge and a Certified Mediator. This Court sends out many of its trial cases for mandatory mediation of the parties prior to trial. The mediators are compensated by the parties. Is it improper for this Court to send some of its mediation cases to my father.

2) I have been asked by a local society to become a member. According to their application for, the membership of the society "is open to men and women of the Jewish faith who are currently employed by or retired from, any of the various fields of public safety such as: police officers (full-time or reserve), firefighters, state's attorneys general, district attorneys - public prosecutors, judges, court clerks, parole officers, probation officers, sheriffs and deputies, constables, etc." [Note: It is not open to public defenders.]

The stated objectives of the society include the following: "1) to foster and promote the religious spirit and interests of its members and families; 2) to strengthen friendships and to promote the social well-being and welfare of its members and families; 3) to support the welfare of the local community; 4) to improve the public image of persons engaged in public safety; 5) to support and defend the Constitution and government of the United States; 6) to actively support and improve the criminal justice system; 7) to cooperate with all organizations which also seek the aforementioned objectives." is it proper for a Circuit Court Judge to be a member of this society?

In response to your first question, the committee unanimously agrees that it is improper for you to refer mediation cases to your father.

The committee is divided with respect to the second question. Five members of the Committee believe you are not barred from becoming a member of the organization with unmistakable understanding that you will not participate in fund raising or any activity in which you are identified as a member of the judiciary. Two members have expressed skepticism in connection with a judge belonging to any organization which is not neutral in the composition of its membership. That is to say, the organization's membership is so identified with law enforcement that it does not appear to be dispassionate in the area of criminal justice and hence those committee members deem membership in the organization inappropriate. One member has indicated that the committee has been furnished insufficient information to determine that it is inappropriate for you to join the organization.

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 Green, Tolton, Booth, Doughtie,Frank, Simons and Clarke, 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