September 5, 1996
Attendance at local partisan political meetings
which are open to the public and if not, whether
your campaign manager may attend in
Re: Committee on Standards Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated July 1, 1996
You are a candidate for circuit judge and raise two questions for the Committee's consideration. First you ask whether as a candidate you are forbidden from attending local Republican and Democratic meetings which are open to the public. You would like to distribute campaign literature and speak with and to attendees. Next you inquire whether, in the event you are forbidden from attending such partisan political meetings, your campaign manager may do the same thing in your place.
All ten responding members of the Committee felt that the conduct contemplated by your first inquiry would be forbidden by Canon 7C(3) and Opinion 90-16 of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges. Under Canon 7C(3), as amended by the Florida Supreme Court on May 30, 1996, 21 Fla. Law. Weekly S241, your proposed conduct does not fit into an exception under which a judge or candidate may "attend political party functions." You have not been invited to these part meetings to speak on behalf of your candidacy, on a matter that related to the law, the improvement of the legal system, or the administration of justice. Opinion 90-16 is virtually on point and suggests that a non-partisan judicial candidate may not go to the premises upon which a political party is holding a political meeting for the purpose of greeting delegate and party members at the meeting. You should take note of section 105.071(1), Florida Statutes (1995), providing that a candidate for judicial office shall not participate in any partisan political activities except as provided in that statute.
Two responding Committee members somewhat reluctantly agreed that you could not attend the meetings. Those members felt that Canon 7C(3) may well be broad enough to allow your proposed conduct because of the language indicating that you may "attend a political party function to speak on behalf of (your) candidacy..." These members do not think that the code requires that you bean invited speaker to a partisan political event in order to attend the event. Both of these members did agree, however, that Opinion 90-16 prohibits the contemplated conduct. A copy of that opinion is attached.
Your campaign manager may not do what you are prohibited from doing under Canon 7. Under Canon 7A(3)(c), you may not, except as permitted by section 7C(1), authorize or knowingly permit any other person to do for you what you are prohibited from doing under Canon 7.
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