Opinion Number: 98-2
Date of Issue: March 3, 1998
JUDGE SERVING ON EXECUTIVE BOARD OF LOCAL CHARACTER COUNTS COALITION WHICH IS A PART OF THE UNITED WAY
May a judge serve on the governing board of the Martin County Character Counts organization, which is now a part of the United Way of Martin County, Inc.? ANSWER: Yes. Assuming all other facts remain the same, merely because the United Way of Martin County, Inc. takes over the Martin County Character Counts organization does not change the conclusions and results reached in Opinion 96-4.
The inquiring judge previously requested an opinion from this Committee as to whether he was ethically permitted to serve as a member of the executive board of an organization called Martin County Character Counts. At the time of he posed his questions, the Martin County Character Counts organization was run through the Martin County United Way, but was not a part of the United Way.
His questions resulted in Opinion 96-4. Our opinion, among other things, concluded that the judge was not ethically precluded from serving on the board of the organization.
The inquiring judge advises us that the Martin County Character Counts organization is now a part of the United Way of Martin County, Inc., a private non-profit charitable organization. The judge also emphasizes to this Committee that the United Way has never been a party to litigation in Martin County, Florida.
The issue before the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is whether the new structure of the organization - that is, falling directly within the United Way of Martin County, Inc., changes any of the opinions expressed in Opinion 96-4.
This Committee, in Opinion 96-4, responded to four questions posed by the inquiring judge. The opinion, delivered by Chairman and Second District Court of Appeals Judge Oliver Green, Jr., pronounced the unanimous decisions of this Committee.
The only factual distinction between this opinion and the one authored by Judge Green is that the Martin County Character Counts organization has now become a part of the United Way of Martin County, Inc. The facts remain unchanged in all other respects.
This Committee finds no reason to recede or modify its conclusions in Opinion 96-4 based upon the merger of the Martin County Character Counts organization into the United Way of Martin County, Inc. Accordingly, the inquiring judge may serve on the governing board of the organization.
Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion 96-4 (April 22, 1996).
The Judicial Ethics Advisory 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 by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, Opinion No. 90,133 (Fla. September 4, 1997). However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualification Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith. Id.
For further information, contact The Honorable Scott J. Silverman, Chairman, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, The Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, 1351 NW 12th Street #513, Miami, Florida 33125.
Participating Members: Judges Dell, Charles J. Kahn, Jr., Lisa D. Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, Silverman, Smith, Tolton, and Attorney Blanton
Copies furnished to:
Justice Charles T. Wells
All Committee Members
All Members of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator (Name of judge deleted from this copy)