March 24, 1994
(Expressing personal opinion on
(certain pending legislation
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated February 23, 1994
You have requested an opinion from our Committee concerning the ethical propriety of expressing your opinion on certain pending legislation. The general topic of the legislation has to do with certain perceived practical problems arising from the Florida Supreme Court's decision in Fabre v. Martin, 18 FLW S543. This decision discussed how fault is to be apportioned in civil negligence suits involving named and un-named defendants to law suits. Your primary concern appears to be that the current status of the law will inhibit settlements and increase litigation. Six members of our Committee feel that you may address the appropriate legislative committee on this matter since it concerns the administration of justice. Two members find that it would be improper for you to comment on this issue and two additional members suggest that you use caution in what you say. Some concerns our members have expressed include the following issues: If you are to express an opinion, it should be your own opinion and not one which has been pre-prepared by a politically active group. Furthermore, there is some question whether there are facts or empirical evidence to back up the matters contained in your proposed letter. Some members question the problem of perceived impartiality when you have to preside over cases involving defendants who are adamantly opposed to this legislation
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 So.2d 5 (Fla.1976).
Very truly yours,
Nath C. Doughtie, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Office of the Courts Administrator (name of judge deleted from this copy)
Participating members: Judges Doughtie, Farina , Goldstein, Green, Kahn, Patterson , Rushing, Taylor, Tolton and Edwards, Esq.