April 15, 1993

Opinion 93-22

Canon 5B- Civic Activities
Organizing group to promote
positive intergroup relations
Canon 2B & 5B(2) - lending prestige of Office
for private interest


You ask whether you may help to organize and participate in a goup project called "Help Stamp Out Hate." The project is established nationally by the American Jewish Committee in conjunction with the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of American Roman Catholic Bishops. It is designed to promote positive intergroup relations and greater intergroup understanding.

You anticipate that you would invite participatio by forwarding a letter to a cross section of individuals such as priests, ministers and rabbis, as well as a multi-racial and multi-ethnic selection of lay persons.

Five of the nine participationg members agree that you are not prohibited from participation in the proposed group. Canon 5B expressly permits your participation if the group is not conducted fro the political advancement of its members. They are, however, concerned that your proposed letter may violate Canon 2B in that you would be lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others.

Several members believe any invitation lettermust delete any reference to your judicial ofice and should be typed only on your personal stationery. Further, they state you should be careful to ensure that you do not serve as a "speaker or the guest of honor" at a meeting that could be considered a fund raising event.

Two members question whether you should solicit membership in the group. Such solicitation is prohibited by the 1990 ABA Code of Judicial Conduct not yet adobeted in Florida. Four members who believe the concept worthwhile and your particiaption is commemdable do not believe judges should occupy a leadership role I an acitvist civic activity which will predictably bring them in conflict with ill conceived resistance. Someone other than a judge would organize and lead the group.

You may want to review prior committe opinions 91-22, 85-11, 85-5, 85-4 and 75-26. In opinion 85-5, the Committee opined that a judge could serve on the board of trustees of a community group that helps to set and achieve community goals.

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).

Sincerely yours,

Harvey Goldstein, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges


cc: All Committee Members
Office of State Court Administrator (name of Judge deleted from this copy)

Participating members: Judges Dell, Kahn, Tolton, Green, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Edwards, Esq.