FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2020-06 (Election)1
Date of Issue: March 19, 2020

ISSUE

May a judicial candidate accept an endorsement from an elected official who is currently seeking re-election during the same cycle?

ANSWER: Yes, once it is clear that no one has filed to run against the elected official.

 

FACTS

The inquiring candidate seeks clarification of Fla. JEAC Op. 16-09, one of several opinions in which this Committee tackled the issue of endorsements by non-judicial elected officials. The candidate understands that any such endorsement must come from the official as an individual, and not from any political party to which that official may belong. Much like 16-09, the present inquiry focuses on a phrase we have constantly employed, specifically “not campaigning for election.” We have imposed the requirement that the endorsing official must not also be running for office at the same time, lest it be perceived that the official and the judicial candidate are running as part of a “slate.” The wrinkle in this case is that it is presently unknown whether or not the official will draw opposition.

 

DISCUSSION

In 16-09 the official wishing to endorse the judicial candidate was not up for re-election in 2016 but had already filed to run during the next cycle, i.e., 2018. Thus the official and the judicial candidate would not appear on the same ballot. This Committee perceived no violation of Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 7A(2)(b) under these unusual facts. In the present case, however, both the official and the judicial candidate are running in 2020. As of the date of the inquiry the would-be endorser has not yet attracted an opponent. The inquiring candidate understands that an endorsement would not be appropriate at the present time, but only asks whether the candidate may accept an endorsement when and if the official is the only person to qualify for his or her position, after which time the official would be deemed unopposed and would no longer need to “campaign.”

Much the same question was addressed in Fla. JEAC Op. 12-18, wherein we determined that an official who remained unopposed after qualifying would no longer be campaigning during the same election cycle and thus the judicial candidate could accept an endorsement from that official once qualifying ended.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 7A(2)(b)

Fla. JEAC Ops. 16-09 and 12-18

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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 of the Committee. See Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So. 2d 834 (Fla. 1997). However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualifications Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith.  See id.

The Committee expresses no view on whether any proposed conduct of an inquiring judge is consistent with substantive law which governs any proceeding over which the inquiring judge may preside.  The Committee only has authority to interpret the Code of Judicial Conduct, and therefore its opinions deal only with whether the proposed conduct violates a provision of that Code.

For further information, contact Judge W. Joel Boles, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Chair, First Circuit M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building, 190 Governmental Center, 6th Floor, Pensacola, FL 32502 or JEAC@flcourts.org.

Participating Members:
Judge Michael Andrews, Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson, Judge W. Joel Boles, Judge Miguel de la O, Judge James A. Edwards, Judge David Green, Mark Herron, Esquire, Judge Jeffrey T. Kuntz, Judge Matthew C. Lucas, Judge Michael Raiden, and Charles Reynolds, Esquire.


All Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opinions, subject matter indices, and a search engine are available on the Sixth Circuit’s website at www.jud6.org under Opinions. Committee opinions and related finding tools are also accessible on the Florida Supreme Court’s website at www.floridasupremecourt.org as a secondary posting under Court Opinions.


Copies furnished to:
Inquiring judge (Name of the Inquiring Judge deleted)
Justice Charles T. Canady, Justice Liaison
John A Tomasino, Supreme Court Clerk
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the J.Q.C.

 

1. The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has appointed an Election Practices Subcommittee. The purpose of this subcommittee is to give immediate responses to campaign questions in instances where the normal Committee procedure would not provide a response in time to be useful to the inquiring candidate or judge. Opinions designated with the “(Election)” notation are opinions of the Election Practices Subcommittee of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, and have the same authority as an opinion of the whole Committee.