August 14, 1996

Opinion 96-14

Use of judicial letterhead to
complain about insurance
Canon 2B

Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated June 6, 1996

You inquire whether you may write a letter of complaint concerning the administration of the State Employees Health Insurance Plan on judicial letterhead. You have attached a newspaper article about problems with Unisys Corporation and you reveal that you have had "some significant problems" with how Unisys is administering the health insurance benefits. You state you want to send the complaint to the:

"appropriate State Offices voicing my displeasure with the way or health insurance benefits are being processed. Among those to be provided copies of any complaints would be the State Insurance Commissioner, the head of the Florida State Employee Insurance Program, local Legislators, and possibly even the Governor's office."

Seven of the nine responding Committee members are of the opinion that you cannot write your letter of complaint on judicial letterhead. Your complaint appears to be at least partly personal, if not completely personal in nature. Canon 2B states that '[a] judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others." The remaining two of the nine responding members agree that you cannot use judicial letterhead if you have a pending claim against the State Employees Health Insurance Plaint (sic) as this would be using your letterhead for personal business. However, they believe that if you do not have a (sic) pending claims and are writing the letter for the benefit of the Plan's beneficiaries, you could use your judicial letterhead as you would not be engaged in personal business.

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, Patterson, Rushing, Smith Silverman, Tolton and Attorney Novicki