Opinions of the Judicial Ethics
Advisory Committee

Work Habits

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 3A “The judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all the judge’s other activities. The judge’s judicial duties include all the duties of the judge’s office prescribed by law.”
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 3B(8) “A judge shall dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently and fairly.”
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 3B(8), Commentary “Prompt disposition of the court’s business requires a judge to devote adequate time to judicial duties, to be punctual in attending court and expeditious in determining matters under submission, and to insist that court officials, litigants, and their lawyers cooperate with the judge to that end.”
JEAC Opinion Number

The Canons of Ethics do not prohibit a judge from meeting with an attorney to discuss administrative or procedural matters including docket management, scheduling issues and expectations for motion practice, as long as the judge does not discuss any pending or impending cases, engage in ex parte communication and does not create any doubt as to the judge’s impartiality.  3B(7)(8)&(9), 4 and 5A(1-6).

Judges must comply with section 39.201, Florida Statutes (2019) by reporting information regarding child abuse, neglect, etc. Filing such a report does not constitute a prohibited ex parte communication, but no independent investigation is authorized. Judges are not required to use DCF’s form when reporting. Recusal may be appropriate in certain circumstances.  2A, 3B, and 3E.

Judge may present a “challenge coin” to jurors, court personnel, or citizens who have made contributions to the court or the community, but must be careful not to convey an impression of partiality or select recipients in a way that would undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary. 2, 2A, 2B, 4, 4A, 4B, Commentary to 4B, 5B, Commentary to 5A.
Judge may not use the judge’s former law office, located in the building where the judge’s family’s law firm continues to practice law, during non-business hours to perform personal and court-related work. This would give the impression that the law firm has close ties with the judge, which could help a client who uses that firm and would also raise confidentiality issues. 2A, Commentary to 2A, 2B, Commentary to 2B, 3B(7)(c), 3B(12), 3E(1)(c), 3E(1)(d)(ii), 3E(1)(d)(iii).
Chief judge may permit a general magistrate and court administrative staff to attend a training session sponsored by the Salvation Army and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 3C(2), 4A, 4B.
Judge has no duty under the Code to report possible criminal activity of a party or witness revealed during court proceedings. Judge may report the information, but the Canon 3D(3) privilege may not apply, and there may be other ethical consequences, such as disqualification, depending on the facts. 2A, 3D, 3D(1), 3D(2), 3D(3).
Judge may review sworn arrest reports and other probable cause documents prior to defendant’s first appearance because Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.133(a)(3) specifically allows a judge to review ex parte evidence and there is no difference whether the judge conducts this review before or after entering the courtroom.  However, the judge may not make a preliminary finding of probable cause prior to the first appearance because it could create the perception that the trial court has prejudiced the merits of the case.  2; 3B(7); Commentary to 2A.
Judge may not accept pro rata reimbursement from litigants who agree to pay for expenses incurred while presiding over depositions in a foreign country.  While the Committee was divided on whether certain Canons were implicated, a majority agreed that accepting such payments would violate the high standards of conduct required by Canon 1 and the promotion of public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary required by Canon 2.  In particular, the Committee noted that the proposed arrangement could lead to public misperception about the priorities on the judge’s calendar.  1; 2, 2A; 3B, 3B(1), 3B(8); 5D(5); 6(A);  and Commentary to 3B(8).
While the Code of Judicial Conduct does not expressly limit the number of vacation days a judge may ethically take in a year, judges must be guided by provisions of the Code requiring proper performance of judicial duties, diligent administration of justice, the placement of judicial obligations above all other activities, and avoidance of the appearance of impropriety. It would be improper and a violation of the Code for a judge to take vacation time if it conflicted with carrying out judicial duties or created an appearance of impropriety. 2B, 3,3A,3B(8), and 3C(1).