December 23, 1994
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
(Membership in Benevolent and Protective
(Order of Elks
Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated August 19, 1994
Your inquiry concerns the ramifications of Canon 2C of the new Code of Judicial Conduct upon your membership in an all-male fraternal organization, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Canon 2C proscribes membership in an organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of "sex". Yet, it also states, "Membership in a fraternal ...organization shall not be deemed a violation of this provision." (Emphasis supplied)
In an effort to clarify this issue, the Florida Supreme Court amended the commentary under Canon 2C as follows:
"This Canon is not intended to prohibit membership in religious
and ethnic clubs, such as Knights of Columbus, Masons, B'nai B'rith, and
Sons of Italy;..."
Although this Committee is admittedly unfamiliar with the current constitutions or admission policies of these organizations, if the Knights of Columbus, Masons, B'nai B'rith and/or Sons of Italy are fraternal organizations which exclude females and are approved organizations pursuant to the commentary, then the Committee believes you may continue membership in the Elks. Additionally, membership would also appear to be appropriate pursuant to Canon 2C which states that "Membership in a fraternal...organization shall not be deemed to be a violation of the provision."
Although the Committee agrees that the new Code of Judicial Conduct would permit membership, whether you should resign or maintain your membership should be left to your own conscience. Additionally, the Committee would note that the last paragraph of the commentary of Canon 2C provides the appropriate method of attempting to have an organization address invidiously discriminating practices.
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 Doughtie, Farina, Green, Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, Silverman, Taylor and Tolton