April 29, 1993

Opinion 93-29
Canons 3B(2), 5B(2), 2A
Court Employees/Guardian Ad Litem staff ­ Fund Raising

Dear

You state you are the Chief Judge of a judicial circuit. Part of your responsibilities include supervision of your circuit's guardian ad litem program and its staff of state employees. You have questions regarding the propriety of certain activities of your guardian ad litem staff.

Separate from your program, a not-for-profit corporation called The ____ Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Advisory Board, Inc. was formed to support your guardian ad litem program through fund raising and other activities. This organization is composed of members of the Florida Bar, assistant state attorneys, the Sheriff, court administrators and others.

The corporation (advisory board) wants to sponsor a fund raising event to raise money to pay the fees of private attorneys who represent guardian ad litem volunteers in family court. Admission to the event would be $100 per couple. The Court's guardian ad litem staff wants to directly and indirectly sell tickets to private attorneys.

Your questions are:

(1) Can the director and the staff of the Court's guardian ad litem program engage in the sale of tickets and promotion of the fund raising event?

(2) If the fund raising event is conducted by the "___ Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Advisory Board, Inc.", would the association of the corporation with the court be such that the fund raising activity would still be improper conduct on the part of judicially supervised staff?

(3) If the not-for-profit corporation is sufficiently independent and they proceed with the event, can judges, specifically juvenile judges, attend the function?

Generally, eight participating Committee members believe the proper response is:

Question 1 ­ No
Question 2 ­ Yes
Question 3 ­ No

Canon 3B(2) states "a judge should require his staff and court officers subject to his direction and control to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to him."

The majority of the Committee believes court employees should not solicit funds (sell tickets) to attorneys, especially attorneys who practice in the same court, (see Canon 5B(2) ­ a judge should not solicit funds or permit use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose.)

Also, it is believed the name of the non profit corporation, The ___ Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Advisory Board, Inc., is too closely associated with judicial office and the fund raising activity would not be perceived to be independent of the judiciary.

Finally, the Committee believes your juvenile court judges should not attend the fund raising event because the purpose of the event is to raise funds for attorneys who will be advocates before the same juvenile judges, (See Canon 2A ­ judges should conduct themselves at all times to promote public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.)

One committee member suggests that you establish internal rules governing staff conduct in a manner consistent with the code of Judicial Conduct without unreasonable restrictions on staff's individual rights. As an example, he states, staff personnel could participate in fund raising or partisan political activity provided individual staff members do not trade upon the name of a judge or the court.

Another Committee member does not believe that the standards of conduct that apply to judges also apply to court administrators, staff and/or employees. He does not believe the Code of Judicial Conduct applies to your staff's proposed activity. He believes selling by staff of tickets for a non profit fund raiser does not violate standards of fidelity and diligence.

He suggests that you read "Ethical Conduct of State Court Employees and Administrators: The Search for Standards," published in Judicature, Vol 71, Number 5, Feb 1988, by the American Judicature Society (AJS), and "Judicial Staff and Ethical Conduct," by Scott D. Makar, The Florida Bar Journal, November 1992.

Further, he suggests that you may want to consider an administrative order that directs your staff to comply with the "AJS model code of conduct for nonjudicial court employees," published in Judicature, Volume 73, Number 3, page 138, October-November 1989. Former Chief Judge Daniel Hurley of West Palm Beach issued a similar administrative order for all court employees in his circuit.

The Committee appreciates your inquiry and hopes this response is helpful.

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,

Harvey Goldstein, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

JT/mc

cc: All Committee Members

Participating members: Judges Tolton, Green, Levy, Booth, Dell, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.

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