December 23, 1992
You were a candidate for County Court Judge in South Florida. You have inquired what you could say and not say on disputed legal or political issues during your political campaign in light of American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. v. The Florida Bar, 744 F.Supp. 1094 (N.D. FL 1990), and Streeton v. Disciplinary Bd of the Supreme Court of Pa., 944 F.2d 137 (3 Cir 1991), and the 1990 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct.
The federal district court in the Northern District of Florida in ACLU v. The Florida Bar found Canon 7B(1)(c) to be in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The 1990 ABA Model Code changed Canon 7B(1)(c). The ABA abandoned prior language that prohibited speech on disputed legal or political issues. Instead, the ABA substituted language to limit personal views on issues that may come before the court.
Eight members of the Committee believe that Canon 7B(1)(c) still applies to all judicial candidates in South Florida, and that you should not announce your views on disputed legal or political issues. Five members of the Committee believe all judicial candidates are bound by the existing Canon 7 until the Florida Supreme Court changes the Code. One Committee member states that it is not a question of what a judicial candidate is legally allowed to say but what they should or should not say in order to maintain the aura of impartiality and neutrality.
One committee member believes that a judicial candidate has a practical obligation to respond to questions and questionnaires. He believes it is possible to give a benign answer to such topics as capital punishment. For example you can state that you are prepared to enforce the law on capital punishment.
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,
Harvey Goldstein, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Tolton, Levy, Green, Booth, Dell, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.
Office of State Court Administrator, Legal Affairs &Education