FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2020-11
Date of Issue: May 8, 2020

ISSUE

Whether a judge may write a foreword to a memoir written by a family member.

ANSWER: Yes.

 

FACTS

A family member of the inquiring judge asked the judge to write a foreword for the family member’s memoir. The foreword will not state that the judge is a judge. The memoir will be self-published through an online publishing company and will be available for sale on commercial websites.

 

DISCUSSION

Several times, including recently, we addressed inquiries asking whether a judge may write a book. See Fla. JEAC Ops. 20-01 and 19-18. In those opinions we explained that a judge may do so subject to certain limitations.

This inquiry asks whether the inquiring judge can write the foreword to a book written by another person. We believe a judge may do so subject to the same limitations discussed in our prior opinions and certain other considerations.

Those other considerations were succinctly discussed by the Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics See Conn. Comm. On Jud. Ethics Op. 2010-15 (available at https://www.jud.ct.gov/Committees/ethics/sum/2010-15.htm (last visited May 6, 2020)). That committee included three specific conditions when responding to a judge asking whether the judge could write a foreword to a book.

First, they stated the judge should, and we suggest must, “maintain editorial control over the content of the foreword and should retain the right to review any biographical information that may be published in connection with the book even though in this case his/her official title will not appear in the book.” Similarly, in a prior opinion we discussed the need to maintain editorial control even after submission of a writing. See Fla. JEAC Ops. 12-34. Additionally, as with the Connecticut opinion, the inquiring judge stated that the foreword and memoir will not identify the inquiring judge as a judge. If it did our answer may be different. In that situation, it could be considered using the prestige of judicial office to promote another’s private interests, contrary to Canon 2B.

Second, they stated the judge must “review the entire contents of the book and satisfy him/herself that authoring a foreword to the book would not cast doubt on his/her impartiality in future cases or reflect a predisposition with respect to particular cases or issues or regarding any party or witness that may appear before the Judicial Official.”

Third, they suggested the judge must, at a minimum, disclose the relationship if the author appears as a party in a judicial proceeding before the judge.

If the judge satisfies these three conditions, and those we stated in prior opinions about judicial authors, the judge may write a foreword to a book. Of course, the judge must be mindful of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct when doing so.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canons 2B

Fla. JEAC Ops. 20-01, 19-18, 12-34.

Conn. Comm. On Jud. Ethics Op. 2010-15.

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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 deleted)
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Justice Liaison
John A. Tomasino, Supreme Court Clerk
All Committee Members
General Counsel of the J.Q.C.
Melissa Hamilton, Staff Counsel