December 1, 1976
Re: Canon 4A and 4C
This is in response to your recent letter inquiring whether your financial involvement and participation in an organization sponsoring legal education courses throughout the state would be permissible under the Code of Judicial Conduct.
In particular, you advise that you contemplate forming an organization for profit in conjunction with a limited number of other Florida Bar members which organization will sponsor legal education courses suitable for designation plan approval. You also advise that the organization might undertake to develop and offer courses designed to advance and improve the administration of justice in Florida through seminars and lectures to lawyers and laymen which are not specifically geared to the Bar's designation plan by which undertaking would be consistent with Canon 4A and C of the Code of judicial Conduct.
You state that your role in the organization would be three-fold: First, you would either have a direct ownership interest or an indirect interest, such as through your immediate family. Second, you would serve as a director or advisor to the organization along with other Florida bar members. In that capacity you would help to set policy for the seminars and lectures by approving subject, speakers, times, places and charges. Third, you would lecture on an occasional basis in areas of the law on the same basis as the others. In each of these three areas your activities would be limited so as not to interfere with the administration of your judicial duties or to cast doubt on the propriety of your capacity to decide impartially any issues that may come before you as a judge. You further state that these activities are designed to generate income supplemental to your judicial salary.
The Committee has reviewed your inquiry and a majority (6-3) is of the opinion that your financial involvement and participation, as outlined, would not be inconsistent with the Code of Judicial Conduct. In particular, the majority makes reference to Canon 4A and C, which recognizes a judge's participation in activities concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice as well as a recognition of a judge's services as an officer or director of an organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. Further support for the propriety of your actions may be found in opinions heretofore rendered by the Committee (Opinion No 76-17 and 73-17) recognizing a judge's participation and involvement in the publication of a legal manual and recognizing the propriety of a judge teaching and lecturing.
Two members of the majority were of the view that your activities would be permissible under the Canons so long as they were scheduled in such a manner as not to interfere with the performance of your judicial duties.
The minority was of the view that your activities would be in conflict with Canon 5C(1), which provides:
"(1) a judge should refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on his impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of his judicial duties, exploit his judicial position, or involve him in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which he serves."
One of the minority was specifically of the view that a private educational program would compete with the CLE programs of The Florida Bar, which is administered by the Supreme Court Thereby placing you in a potentially conflicting position. Two of the minority members were concerned that your participation might give the impression that you were lending the prestige of your office to advance the private interest of yourself and others as well as raising a question as to your impartiality because of your potential business and pecuniary relationship with other attorneys in the proposed organization. [See Canons 3C, 5C(1) and (2)].
The Committee also considered your supplemental inquiry regarding an Advisory Board to your proposed organization which would be composed of persons not members of The Florida Bar. A majority of the members were of the opinion that the original view heretofore set forth would not be affected by the supplemental inquiry.
We appreciate your interest and trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Boyer, Carlisle, Haverfield, Hewitt, Murphee, O'Connell, Stephenson and Thomas MacDonald, Esquire