July 24, 1996
Candidate's appearance at
partisan political function
Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated April 26, 1996
You inquire whether you, as a judicial candidate, may attend a partisan political function that is not a fundraiser in order to meet people and have alternative petitions signed. You also ask whether you may make a speech to the group if invited. Finally, you ask whether you must ensure that any opposing candidates are also invited to attend.
As recently amended, Canon 7A(1)(d) provides that, except as provided in sections 7B(2), 7C(2) and 7C(3), a candidate for judicial office shall not attend political party functions. The pertinent exception to this rule in Canon 7C(3) which was recently amended to read:
A judicial candidate involved in an election or re-election, or a merit retention candidate who has certified that he or she has active opposition, may attend a political party function to speak in behalf of his or her candidacy or on a matter that relates to the law, the improvement of the legal system, or the administration of justice. The function must not be a fundraiser, and the invitation to speak must also include the other candidates, if any for that office...
In re Code of Judicial Conduct, 21 Fla. L. Weekly S241 (Fla. May 30, 1996). This amendment became effective immediately.
Therefore, as a candidate for judicial office, the Committee agrees that you can attend political functions to speak in behalf of your candidacy as long as the function is not a fundraiser and the other candidates for the office are also invited. One Committee member feels your primary inquiry deals with whether you may attend partisan political functions to obtain signatures and meet potential voters and would advise that you may not do this. The Committee member would also advise to review Opinion 90-16.
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 Cardonne, Green, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Rushing, Silverman, Smith, Tolton and Attorney Novicki