June 9, 1993

Opinion 93-35
Florida Traffic Court Rule 6.630(i)
Traffic Magistrates: Practice of law in criminal traffic court


You have asked us to reconsider our Opinion 92-48, wherein we opined that Florida Traffic Court Rule 6.630(i) - Code of Judicial Conduct - prohibited a traffic magistrate from practicing law in his or her county's criminal traffic court.

You state that the opinion creates a hardship and will force you to resign. Your service as a magistrate is voluntary in that you do not receive any compensation. Further, you believe the most qualified magistrates are those with a criminal defense background.

All of the eight participating committee members believe you have not stated a substantial reason to change our prior opinion.

One member states the Traffic Court Rule and our opinion is wise because traffic magistrates develop a close working relationship with court clerks and staff administering civil traffic cases. These same clerks and staff also administer criminal traffic cases. He believes this close working relationship could lead to conflict and ethical problems if traffic magistrates acted as criminal defense attorneys in criminal traffic court.

Another member stresses that committee opinion is based strictly on an interpretation of Florida Traffic Rule 6.630(i) rather than an inherent ethical violation.

Two members believe you should petition The Florida Bar's Traffic Court Rule Committee for a change in the rule.

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


cc: All Committee Members

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

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