March 13, 1991
Opinion No. 91-3
Canon 5 B
You ask whether you should withdraw your membership in a fraternal organization of Jewish men and women who are, or have been, involved in law enforcement. The society is not involved in fund raising. Membership in the society is principally composed of law enforcement officers who occasionally make political statements. Judges and attorneys are also members. The society recently excluded an attorney from membership because he represented someone accused of killing a police officer. You are presently serving in the Criminal Division and feel uncomfortable about your membership.
It is a fair analysis of our committee consensus that no member believes it is a good thing for you to remain associated with this society, however, a minority of three members do not believe that your membership is a clear contravention of the Canons.
The remaining seven members believe that your membership is contrary to Canon 5B, which provides "A judge may participate in civic or charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon his impartiality...". Still another judge believes that Canon 2 prohibits membership in this society.
One judge believes that the society may be viewed as an activist organization by the public. it is felt that member judges would be thus perceived. Yet another committee member compares your association with the society concerned in Opinion 89-21. This member agrees with the dissenting comment contained therein:
"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."
You may wish to see Opinions 89-21, 85-4, and 87-10.
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).
With regards, I remain,
Yours very truly,
Oliver L. Green, Jr., Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating Members: Judges Green, Tolton, Booth, Dell, Doughtie, Frank, Goldstein,Farina, Shutter, 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
Judson Orrick, 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 .
Cynthia Grey,Director, American Judicature Society
Ms. Jean Underhill, Librarian, Broward County Law Library
Mr. Robert Wallace, Librarian, Dade County Law Library
Ms. Joan D. Cannon, Librarian, Supreme Court of Florida
William D. Wilkinson, Court Administrator, Lee County
Hon. Thomas H . Barkdull , Jr ., Third District Court of Appeal
Lynda Glyman, Esq. Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association
Office of the State Courts Administrator, Legal Affairs & Education
Hon. Charles McClure, Chief Judge, Second Judicial Circuit