FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Opinion Number: 2001-04
Date of Issue: March 14, 2001
MAY A RETIRED JUDGE WHO HAS REMOVED HIS NAME FROM THE LIST FOR SENIOR JUDGE ASSIGNMENTS TAKE PART IN HIS SON'S JUDICIAL CAMPAIGN BY PROVIDING ADVICE AND MAKING FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS?
ANSWER: Yes, subject to the conditions in this opinion.
The inquiring judge is a retired judge who is employed full time at a law school in the state of Florida. The retired judge has asked to be removed from the Supreme Court list for senior judge assignments and does not intend to be placed back on the list in the near future. The inquiring retired judge is in the position of a director at a Florida law school and generally uses the title "Director," although on occasion uses the title "Judge" in connection with the law school. The inquiring retired judge wishes to know whether he may participate in his son's judicial campaign, whether he may give the son advice, and whether he may make financial contributions to the campaign.
A retired judge eligible for recall to judicial service must comply with all provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct except for sections 5C(2), 5E, 5F, and 6A. See Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Section B. Accordingly, Canon 7A and 7B apply to a retired judge eligible for recall. See Fla. JEAC Op. 99-6. Pursuant to Canon 7A(1)(b), a judge may not "publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office." The Code specifically provides, however, that if a retired justice or judge does not desire to be assigned to judicial service, such a judge or justice who is a member of The Florida Bar may engage in the practice of law and shall be entitled to all the rights of an attorney at law and no longer be subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct.
In the present inquiry, the retired judge has stated that he does not desire to be assigned to judicial service. Provided that the judge formally communicates this to the Florida Supreme Court, he will then find himself in the situation of any other attorney. Accordingly, the judge may engage in the activities described in the inquiry.
At such time as a retired judge complies with the procedures established by the Florida Supreme Court for recall to judicial service, the judge would, in the words of the Code, be "eligible for recall to judicial service." Accordingly, the retired judge would then be subject to all provisions of Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. At such time, the retired judge may not engage in any activity that would involve endorsing a candidate for public office and may not make political contributions. Questions of propriety would quite obviously arise were a retired judge to change status merely to coincide with the campaign season.
The inquiry notes that the judge occasionally utilizes the title "judge." In order to avoid all appearance of impropriety, and to avoid any question of non-compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct, the inquiring retired judge should take great care not to utilize the title, nor allow the title to be utilized, in connection with any political campaign.
Code of Judicial Conduct: 5C(2), 5E, 5F, and 6A, 7, 7A, 7A(1)(b), 7B, Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Section B.
Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 99-6.
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 Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr., Chairman, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, 301 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1850
Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr.
Judge Gisela Cardonne
Judge Lisa D. Kahn
Judge David Levy
Judge Scott J. Silverman
Judge C. McFerrin Smith, III
Judge Jeffrey D. Swartz
Marjorie Gadarian Graham