December 11, 1974
Re: Canon 2;4;5B(1)
Re: Standards of Judicial conduct
You inquire as to the propriety of a County Judge serving on the Board of
Directors of a Legal Aid Society which provides legal services for indigents.
Your inquiry further states that said judge takes an active roll in hiring
of legal personnel involved, and these attorneys appear in the County Court
on eviction and collection cases. Further these cases have,
or may have appeared in this judge's court.
It is the opinion of this committee, without dissent, that said judge should
resign forthwith as a Director of said Legal Aid Society. It is our opinion
that the activities of a judge such as you outline would offend the provisions
of Canon 2, i. e , . . . may tend to convey an appearance of partiality
by the judge to the attorneys of that organization.
Canon 4, offers this judge no comfort, for when said canon is considered
with Canon 5 (B), we find a judge is prohibited from serving on the Board
of Directors of any organization if it is likely that said organization
would be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.
Your attention is also invited to the Commentary following Canon 5B(1),
" the boards of some legal aid organizations now make policy decisions
that may have political significance or imply commitment to causes that
may come before Courts for adjudication."
We appreciate the opportunity of furnishing you this opinion, and hope that
it may be of some assistance.
/s/ GUNTER STEPHENSON, as Chairman
Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct
cc: All members
The Commentary to Canon 4C explains:
As a judicial officer and person specially learned in the law, a judge is
in a unique position to contribute to the improvement of the law, the legal
system, and the administration of justice, including revision of substantive
and procedural law and improvement of the criminal and juvenile justice.
To the extent that his time permits, he is encouraged to do so, either independently
or through a bar association, judicial conference, or other organization
dedicated to the improvement of the law.
Extrajudicial activities are governed by Canon 5.
We recognize that this opinion conflicts with opinion 74/17 to the extent
that we have concluded that Canon 5B does not unequivocally prohibit a judge
from serving as a director of a legal aid society. Two members of the Committee
expressed the view that opinion 74/17 correctly interprets Canon 5B(l) as
a prohibition a judge's service on the board of directors of a legal aid
society and two members suggested that since you did not raise the question
we should not address it. In summary, though we do not express a formal
opinion as to the propriety of your continued service as a trustee of the
Legal Aid Society. We suggest that you review the functions of the legal
aid society in the light of the canons mentioned and the discussion which
we have set forth above.
We have based our opinion on the information furnished in your letter. The
Committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting
the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The opinions of the Committee
on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges are merely advisory to the individual
specifically seeking an interpretation of the propriety of certain contemplated
conduct, advisory to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and advisory
to the judiciary at large. Judicial conduct that is consistent with an advisory
opinion issued by the Committee may be evidence of good faith on the judge's
behalf, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive
opinions issued by the Committee. Petition of Com. of Standards of Conduct
for Judges, 327 So.2d 5 Fla. 1976.