April 22, 1996

Opinion 96-5

Traffic Magistrate running for Sheriff
Canon 7

Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated February 20, 1996

You are considering becoming a candidate for the office of Sheriff. Your inquiry concerns the Canon 7(2) requirement that "[a] judge shall resign from judicial office upon becoming a candidate for a non-judicial office either in a primary or in a general election..." You state that under the Resign to Run law (section 99.012(3), Florida Statutes), you must submit you resignation to the Chief Judge of your circuit stating the effective date of your resignation will be on the day of taking new office, January 7, 1997. Your question is whether you may ethically continue to serve as a traffic magistrate through the election.

You correctly conclude that you are bound by Canon 7(2). This Canon is not on of the Canons that a traffic magistrate is specifically exempted from compliance. See, Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct, subsection A.

As to your inquiry, all ten responding members believe that you may not ethically continue to serve as a traffic magistrate while seeking election as Sheriff. This includes both the primary and general election. In Opinion 92-37, we held there was a conflict and possible violation of Canon 2A when a part-time magistrate also served as an auxiliary state trooper. While that Opinion did not deal with Canon 7, the reasoning behind it is applicable to the instant inquiry. As a candidate for Sheriff, your impartiality can be reasonably questioned.

Two of the ten responding members state:

Canon 7A(2) clearly requires this inquirer to resign form judicial office upon becoming a candidate. Moreover, the inquirer would be completely bound by the requirements of Canon 7A(1) because the exceptions to this rule don not apply to a judge seeking nonjudicial elective office. The inquirer should also be advised that, under the Code, he becomes a "candidate" as soon as he makes a public announcement for candidacy, opens a campaign account, declares or files as a candidate with the election authority, or authorizes solicitation or acceptance of contributions. Thus, assuming that he makes his announcement before taking any other steps, the resignation would have to coincide with the date of the announcement.

Finally, the Committee is answering your inquiry only as it concerns the code of Judicial Conduct and that we are not interpreting, in any way, the Resign to Run statute.

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 So.2d 5 (Fla.1976).

Oliver L. Green, Jr.
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

cc: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(name of judge deleted from this copy)

Participating Members: Judges Dell, Doughtie, Green, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, Silverman, Tolton and Attorney Novicki