August 30, 1994
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
(Campaign television advertisement
Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated August 1, 1994
You have requested our Committee to render an opinion on the ethical propriety of two proposed scripts for television campaign commercials for a circuit court seat.
Initially, it should be observed that despite the Federal District Court decision which invalidated Canon 7B(1)(a), (candidates should maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office) and a portion Canon 7B(1)(c) , (candidates should not announce views on disputed legal or political issues), the portion of Canon 7B(1)(c), which states that "A candidate...should not make any pledges of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of duties of the office...or misrepresent his identity, qualifications, present position or other fact." is still intact. Thus, it is clear that a candidate for judicial office must still carefully craft each advertisement so that there are no improper pledges or misrepresentations.
The Committee's position is that it should not approve or disapprove specific language of individual judicial campaign advertisements, but rather should provide the ethical provisions which judicial candidates must consider. Several members felt that you should re-evaluate certain language in the proposed advertisements in accordance with both the spirit and the intent of Canon 7B(1)(c). They were concerned that your proposed commercials appear to play on the voters' fears and contain pledges or statements which may not accurately depict the actual power of a newly elected judge. One member felt that your commercials are permissible, as long as the phrase "Beginning on September 8..." is deleted.
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 judges, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla. 1976).
Very truly yours,
Steve Rushing, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct
CC: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of judge deleted from this copy)
Participating Members: Judges Dell, Doughtie, Farina, Green, Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, Silverstein, Tolton and Edwards, Esq.