FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2021-15
Date of Issue: September 17, 2021

ISSUE

May the inquiring judge serve as a member of the Judicial System Workgroup, which is a subcommittee of the National Substance Use Disorder Strategic Advisory Panel?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring judge has been invited to serve as a member of the National Substance Use Disorder Strategic Advisory Panel (NSUDSAP). The specific purpose of the NSUDSAP is defined as follows:

Identify and define evidence-based public health recommendations for the prevention and treatment of and recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) in the United States. This will be accomplished through the formation of an independent expert task force that will present current best practices and guidance to support substance use abatement efforts of Federal agencies, State, local and Tribal governments, and those related to opioid lawsuit settlement funds.

If the inquiring judge accepts the invitation, the judge will be assigned to the Justice System Workgroup. It was explained to the judge that the Judicial System Workgroup will be diverse and will cover both civil and criminal matters and its focus will include, but is not limited to:

Expanding access to evidence-based treatment for incarcerated individuals; promoting best practices in service delivery models for care to address the needs of adolescents in juvenile justice programs; and expanding access to recovery support services.

The judge’s role on the committee will be to assist in identifying supportive policies within the judicial system, addressing both criminal and civil legal problems for individuals with substance use disorders and their families. The judge will not be asked to participate in political activities or fundraising and neither the judge’s name nor title will not be used in connection with any such activities.

 

DISCUSSION

Judges are encouraged to engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of Justice. See Canon 4. Judges are also encouraged to serve as a member, officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization or governmental entity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice. See Canon 4D. Any extra judicial activities must be conducted in a way that does not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality; demean the judicial office; interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties; lead to frequent disqualification of the judge; or appear to a reasonable person to be coercive. See Canon 4A(1)-(6).

We have addressed whether judges may serve on committees or councils related to substance abuse several times in the past. Since at least 1988, we have found that a judge’s service on boards or councils whose purpose is to address the pervasiveness of substance use disorders is permissible. See Fla. JEAC Op. 88-24 (a judge’s service on the District IV Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Planning Council does not violate the Canons of Ethics); Fla. JEAC Op 89-14 (a judge may serve as the chair of a task force or committee, composed of business and civic leaders, intended to enhance community effort to fight drugs and crime); Fla. JEAC Op. 93-23 (a judge may serve as a member of the board of directors of a DUI countermeasure school); Fla. JEAC Op. 95-36 (a judge may serve as a member of the Broward County Committee on Alcoholism, which oversees the drug and alcohol abuse program in Broward County); Fla. JEAC Op. 99-07 (a judge may serve on the Board of Directors of a County Commission on Substance Abuse).

Here, the inquiring judge’s involvement as a member of the Judicial System Workgroup will serve the dual purpose of engaging in an activity designed to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice while at the same time addressing how to best deliver substance abuse services to children and adults who have contact with the legal system. We see no impediment to the judge’s service on the Judicial System Workgroup.

 

REFERENCES

Canons 4, 4A(1)-(6), 4D

Fla. JEAC Ops. 88-24; 89-14; 93-23; 95-36; and 99-07.

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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