receded from in Op. 96-23
July 28, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
(Judicial Nominating Commission
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated May 17, 1995
You pose several questions regarding the degree of involvement that a sitting judge may ethically pursue in the selection of nominees by a Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) for appointment to a vacant county or circuit court position.
Canon 2(B) states, in part, "A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others."
The commentary to Canon 2 (B) states as follows: "Judges may participate in the process of judicial selection by cooperating with appointing authorities and screening committees seeking names for consideration, and by responding to official inquiries concerning a person being considered for a judgeship." (Emphasis supplied).
The consensus of the Committee is that judges may communicate with a Judicial Nominating Committee in writing with succinct, factual statements or observations concerning the qualifications of applicants in accordance with the standard provisions of letters of recommendation addressed in the commentary to Canon 2B and the September 29, 1994 Opinion of the Supreme Court in In re: Code of Judicial Conduct; 643 So.2d 1037 (Fla. 1994). Judges may either initiate such correspondence or so respond to official inquiries from the appointing committees.
Generally, a judge should not directly or indirectly suggest which candidate a JNC member should support or express personal opinions on the comparative merits of any candidate.
Finally, a judge should not directly solicit or encourage Florida Bar members to apply to the JNC, since this could compromise impartiality and may appear to show favoritism to one attorney over another.
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 judges, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla. 1976).
Very truly yours,
Steve Rushing, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct
CC: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of judge deleted from this copy)
Participating Members:Judges Dell, Doughtie, Green, Kahn, Rushing, Silverman,
Tolton, and Cushman, Esq.