February 18, 1992
(OPINION NO: 92-9
(Comment on media questions relating to drugs
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges - Your inquiry
dated January 9, 1992
You ask whether you may comment on specific newspaper questions pertaining to the legalization of drugs. The questions were sent to you and other judges in your circuit as part of a newspaper survey.
A majority of the ten member committee felt you may discuss general reform in the area of drug enforcement, but should not answer specific questions that by their nature would cast doubt on your ability to decide impartially any drug related issue that may come before you. Two of these committee members warned, however, answering the inquiries would be unwise, although permissible. Two members strongly dissented, stating impartiality could not be maintained in a pro and con discussion on the issue of legalizing drugs. Several members noted the questions calling for statistical response could be answered, but suggested the editor direct those questions to another individual or agency, e.g., the Clerk of Court.
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 So2d 5 (Fla.1976).
With regards, I remain,
Yours very truly,
Jere Tolton, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Tolton, Green, Levy, Booth, Dell, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.
All reference to the inquiring judge is deleted from the copies sent
to the following individuals.
Mr. Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida
Judson Orrick, Managing Editor, The Florida Bar
Brooke S. Kennerly, Executive Director, Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Hon. Walter K. Stapleton, Chairman, Ethics Advisory panel of the Judicial Conference of the United States .
Cynthia Grey, Director, American Judicature Society
Ms. Jean Underhill, Librarian, Broward County Law Library
Mr. Robert Wallace, Librarian, Dade County Law Library
Ms. Joan D. Cannon, Librarian, Supreme Court of Florida
William D. Wilkinson, Court Administrator, Lee County
Hon. Thomas H. Barkdull, Jr. , Third District Court of Appeal
Lynda Glyman, Esq. Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association
Hon. Charles McClure, Chief Judge, Second Judicial Circuit
Office of State Court Administrator, Legal Affairs &Education