April 30, 1987
Opinion No. 87/5
Canons 4 and 5G
This letter is in response to your inquiry dated February 24, 1987. You stated that you were appointed by the board of county commissioners to serve as a member of the county fine arts council and that you presently serve as chairman of that council. You asked whether the Canons of Judicial Conduct prohibit your service on the arts council and as chairman. We have reviewed the ordinance furnished with your letter that outlines the duties and responsibilities of the council and as chairman. It appears that your duties as a council member are extensive and that as chairman you are required to appear before various public agencies to further the business of the council.
Canon 4C permits a judge to serve as a member, officer or director of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice... Since the purpose of the council does not involve improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, service on the council does not come within Canon 4C.
Canon 5G states:
A judge should not accept appointment to a governmental committee, commission, or other position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. A judge, however, may represent his country, state, or locality on ceremonial occasions or in connection with historical, educational or cultural activities.
For your information, I am enclosing copies of Opinions 73/4, 75/5, 77/13, 81/6, 84/9 and 85/10. With exception of Opinion 73/4 that approved judges' service on a county alcohol and drug council, the foregoing opinions would appear to prohibit your service on the council. It should also be noted that Opinion 73/4 was not followed in any of the other opinions, except that it was mentioned in 85/10 as a contrary view.
A majority of the Committee members have responded to your inquiry and have concluded that at a minimum you should resign your position as chairman of the council. The Committee also suggests that you should consider resignation from the council because Canon 5G expressly prohibits a judge from accepting appointment to a governmental committee, etc., that is concerned with an issue of fact or policy on matters other that the improvement of the law, etc. However, the members were generally in agreement that you would not be prohibited from serving on the council in an ex-officio manner. One of the Committee members concluded that you should resign as chairman of the council but did not believe that it would be necessary for you to resign totally from the council. Another member concluded that while your service on the commission is not favored by the Code of Judicial Conduct, that you are not expressly required to resign from the Council.
We have based our opinion on the information furnished in your letter. The 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 issued by the committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct for Judges 327 So2d 5 (Fla. 1976).
We appreciate your inquiry and trust that the foregoing information will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
John W. Dell
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Blanchard, Booth, Dell, Frank, Goldstein,
Green, Shutter, Tedder and Attorney F. Shields McManus
All reference to the inquiring judge is deleted from the copies sent to the following individuals.
Mr. Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida
Linda Yates, Managing Editor, The Florida Bar Journal
Kathleen T. Phillips, Esq., Chairman, Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Hon. Howard T. Markey, Chairman, Ethics Advisory Panel of the Judicial Conference of the United States .
Jeffrey M. Shaman, Esquire, Director, Center for Judicial Conduct Organizations
Ms. Jean Underhill, Librarian, Broward County Law Library
Mr. Robert Wallace, Librarian, Dade County Law Library
Mr. Brian Polley, Librarian, Supreme Court of Florida