Opinion Number: 99-07

Date of Issue: March 9, 1999



Whether a judge may serve on the Board of Directors for a County Commission on Substance Abuse?


The inquiring judge has been asked to serve on the Board of Directors for a County Commission on Substance Abuse. The judge asks whether service on the Board would violate any ethical canons.


The goal of the Commission is to initiate, encourage and coordinate a comprehensive community-wide effort to combat illegal drugs and alcohol abuse. The Commission brokers partnerships between federal, state and local agencies to reduce substance abuse in the community. The Commission funds and supervises counter drug grants and provides direct service programs. The Board of Directors is responsible for the general policies, management and administration of the affairs of the Commission, nominating and electing officers, approving the annual budget, and helping to plan, initiate, and coordinate a comprehensive strategy for fighting substance abuse within the community. The Commission also considers and proposes legislation.

Canon 4D states in part that a judge may serve as a member, officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Canon 5C(2) provides that a judge may accept appointment to a governmental commission or committee that is concerned with the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.

Previous Committee opinions have found it proper for a judge to serve on advisory councils. In Opinion 95-36, the Committee approved service on the Broward County Committee on Alcoholism, which oversees the drug and alcohol abuse program in Broward County. The Committee has given approval for judges to serve on an alcohol, drug abuse, and mental health district planning council (Ops. 88-24, 88-30); on the board of directors of a DUI countermeasure school (Op. 93-23); in an advisory capacity on the regional juvenile detention center's community advisory board (Op. 94-04); as a member of a district juvenile justice board (Op. 94-31); as a member of the Children Advisory Board (Op. 93-46); and as a member of the Mayor's Victims' Assistance Advisory Council (Op. 98-26).

In Opinion 97-20 the Committee found a judge could serve on the County Criminal Justice Commission. The County Criminal Justice Commission was created by county ordinance. According to the ordinance, the Criminal Justice Commission was to study all aspects of the criminal justice and crime prevention system within the county. The Commission was to then make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on policies and programs designed to accomplish certain objectives.

The Committee disapproved a judge's service on an advisory board which would oversee a federal block grant secured by a local police department in Opinion 97-24. The Committee was concerned that the inquiring judge would in essence be serving as an advisor to the police department.

Service on the Substance Abuse Board does not appear to have excessive entanglement in the day to day operations of any specific program.

The Committee concludes that the judge may serve on the County Commission on Substance Abuse since the Commission is concerned with the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Service on such a commission would not detract from the judge’s role as an impartial magistrate. However, the judge should not serve or should recuse himself from voting or participation if it is likely the Commission on Substance Abuse and/or the various agencies seeking funding from the Commission will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or regularly engage in adversary proceedings in any court. See Opinion 93-46.


Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 4D, 5C(2).

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 88-24, 88-30, 93-23, 93-46, 94-04, 94-31, 95-36, 97-20, 97-24 and 98-26.


The Judicial Ethics Advisory 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 by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So.2d 834 (Fla. 1997). However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualification Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith. Id.

For further information, contact The Honorable Lisa D. Kahn, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, The Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Justice Center, 2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, Florida, 32940-8006.

Participating Members: Judges Cardonne, Dell, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Patterson, Rodriquez, Rushing, Smith and Attorney Blanton

Copies furnished to:

Justice Charles T. Wells
All Committee Members
All Members of the J.Q.C
Office of the State Courts Administrator (Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)