August 3, 1989
Opinion No. 89/15
Canons 2, 4, 7
Supporting or endorsing a judicial candidate before a judicial nominating commission
I have reduced your inquiry to the following questions:
1) Is a judge barred by the Code of Judicial Conduct from supporting, in the form of an unsolicited letter, a candidate seeking appointment to a judicial position through the selection process?
2) May a judge appear before a judicial nominating commission personally to introduce a candidate or to speak to members of the commission to express his judgment as to the best qualified person?
In response to the first question, a majority of the committee, consistent with opinion 86/2, a copy of which is enclosed, has expressed the view that you may communicate your views to a judicial nominating commission. Such communication, however, must be factual, succinct and discreet. Three members of the committee are persuaded that it is inappropriate to tender unsolicited data to a nominating commission in connection with a judicial candidate. Two of the three members, however, would approve an unsolicited communication which is confined to personal knowledge of a factual matter bearing upon a candidate's qualifications to serve as a judge. These two members, however, are concerned that unsolicited endorsement of a candidate may be perceived a violative of Canon 2B because of the apparent lending of the prestige of office to advance the private interests of another and that an unsolicited written opinion bears the mark of a public endorsement prohibited by Canon 7A(1)(b).
The second question is unanimously answered in the negative. Each member of the committee finds it inappropriate for a judge who is subject to the Canons to appear personally before a nominating commission to support and endorse a candidate.
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).
Richard H. Frank, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating Members: Judges Green, Tolton, Booth, Dell, Doughtie,Frank, Simons, Shutter, Goldstein, and Clarke, Esquire.
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
Brooke S. Kennerly, Executive Director, Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Hon. Walter K. Stapleton, 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
Mr. Richard Kuhn, Court Administrator, Lee County
Hon. Thomas H . Barkdull , Jr ., Third District Court of Appeal
Ms. Georgeanne Marsh, Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association