June 14, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated April 13, 1995
You inquire whether a judge is required to "automatically" enter an Order of Recusal when a party or their respective counsel has filed a complaint against a judge with the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Although disqualification is a question of law, it also involves the
Code of Judicial Conduct, since Canon 3(E) requires disqualification "in
a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned."
In Opinion 91-12, nine members of this Committee found that a judge should disqualify himself or herself from any cases handled by assistant state attorneys that were adverse witnesses against the judge in a pending complaint before the JQC. The nine members also opined that judge should continue to recuse himself or herself for a reasonable time after the matter was concluded.
In Opinion 84/12 the Committee unanimously
held that a judge should be disqualified in cases where an attorney who was
the judge's political opponent appeared. Five of the nine responding members
felt that the disqualification should be on a case-by-case basis and three members
felt the judge should automatically disqualify himself on all cases handled
by the opponent.
Pursuant to Canon 3E, the Committee unanamously agrees that you should disqualify yourself under the facts presented. As to whether the disqualification should be "automatic" or on a "case by case basis" when an attorney or party in a case pending before a judge files a complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, four members felt the disqualification should be on a case-by-case basis and five members felt a judge should automatically enter an Order of Recusal.
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 Cardonne, Doughtie, Green, Kahn, Lynch, Patterson, Rushing, Silverman, and Tolton