April 15, 1993

Opinion 93-21

Canon 3C(1) and 3C(3)
Disqualification - Attorney's Child
is Judge's Godchild

Re: Committee on Standard of Conduct Governing Judges - Your inquiry dated February 23, 1993


You have asked whether a judge should disqualify himself or herself from a criminal case or evidentiary hearing where the judge is the godparent of an assistant state attorney's child.

All nine participating Committee members agree that Canon 3C(3) does not require a judge to disqualify himself or herself because there isn't a sufficient family relationship.

However, all agree that in every case a judge must make a personal decision whether the relationship might reasonably raise questions about the judge's impartiality. In some cases a judge's close personal relationship with an attorney suggests it is necessary for the judge to follow Canon 3D, Remittal of Disqualification, and make a disclosure to opposing attorney and parties.

You may find the decision in Pool Water Products, Inc.v. Pools by L.S. Rule, 18 FLW 424 (4 DCA January 1993), to be very helpful.

Two members express concern that some persons would find the relationship between a godparent and a godchild's family to be very close family relationship. They cite a Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission case I which a judge was charged with improper conduct for the judge's failure to disclose his godfather relationship with a child of an attorney in a case before the judge.

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).

Sincerely yours,

Harvey Goldstein, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges


cc: All Committee Members
Office of State Court Administrator (name of Judge deleted from this copy)

Participating members: Judges Dell, Kahn, Tolton, Green, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Edwards, Esq.