June 15, 1995


(OPINION 95-21
Membership in Academy
of Florida Trial Lawyers

In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated April 24, 1995

You inquire whether you can be a dues paying member of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers.

Although the Academy is an organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, the certification for membership in the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers requires its members to certify the following:

"I certify and state by signing below that in my own personal practice less that 40% of my work load involves the defense of insurance companies, manufacturers, jury or wrongful death matters..."

Since the required certification for membership may "cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge", the Committee unanimously believes that membership in the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers by a judge is precluded by Canon 4(A)

One concurring judge stated, "Membership in the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers would, in my opinion, be completely permissible if not for the Certification it requires of its members prior to their admission into the Academy... Were membership permitted you could imagine attorneys saying, "Hey, She's a Plaintiff's judge" or "He belongs to the Academy'."

It should be noted that in Opinion 87/3 this Committee found no impropriety in a judge lecturing at a legal seminar sponsored by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and the University of West Florida. As another concurring member stated, "Much of the lobbying efforts of the Academy are devoted to obtaining legislation which would provide the plaintiff's bar with tactical or substantive advantages. Having said this, I believe a judge may participate in any legitimate CLE functions sponsored by the Academy. Membership should, however, be avoided."

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 judges, 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, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla. 1976).

Very truly yours,

Steve Rushing, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct
Governing Judges

CC: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of judge deleted from this copy)

Participating Members:Judges Cardonne, Doughtie, Green, Kahn, Lynch, Patterson, Rushing, Silverman, and Tolton