FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2021-09
Date of Issue: July 22, 2021

ISSUE

May a judge appear in a video sponsored by a local bar foundation which outlines the services provided by and through the local legal aid society and another pro-bono legal services organization?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

A judge inquires whether it is permissible for the judge to appear in video sponsored by a local bar foundation, which outlines the services provided by and through the local legal aid society and another pro-bono legal services organization. The proposed script for the video is informational. It does not solicit contributions for either organization. Nor does the script for the video solicit lawyers to join either organization or to perform pro bono work or to pay an assessment in lieu of pro bono work. See Fla. JEAC Op. 2000-06.

The local bar foundation focuses on community education relating to the law and the legal system. The foundation helps citizens gain a better understanding of the judicial system, including knowledge of how the judicial system works and teaching school students about our system of government and the basic principles underlying our constitutional institutions and structures.

 

DISCUSSION

In 2003, Canon 4B was clarified by the Florida Supreme Court “to encourage judges to engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.” Code of Judicial Conduct, 840 So. 2d 1023, 1031 (Fla. 2003). The Court also noted:

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, but not limited to, the improvement of the role of the judiciary as an independent branch of government, the revision of substantive and procedural law, the improvement of criminal and juvenile justice, and the improvement of justice in the areas of civil, criminal, family, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, juvenile dependency, probate and motor vehicle law. To the extent that time permits, a judge is encouraged to do so, either independently or through a bar association, judicial conference or other organization dedicated to the improvement of the law.

Id. See also Commentary to Canon 4B.

 

REFERENCES

Code of Judicial Conduct, 840 So. 2d 1023 (Fla. 2003)
Fla. Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4B and Commentary to Canon 4B.
Fla. JEAC Op. 2000-06

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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 futher information, contact Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson, Chair of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, 301 S. Monroe Street, Room 265-B, Tallahassee, FL 32301 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)
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Justice Liaison
John A Tomasino, Supreme Court Clerk
All Committee Members
Alexander J. Williams, General Counsel of the J.Q.C.
Melissa Hamilton, Staff Counsel