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Florida Judicial - CANDIDACY

Florida Supreme Court dismisses petition for writ of quo warranto seeking to prohibit Governor from appointing replacements for 3 justices whose terms end in January 2019. [Added 12/14/17]
The terms of 3 Supreme Court justices (Justices Lewis, Pariente, and Quince) end in January 2019, and those justices must retire due to term limit laws.  Governor Scott, who also leaves office in January 2019, has announced his intention to appoint their replacements.  The Florida League of Women Voters filed a petition seeking a writ of quo warranto to prohibit Governor Scott from making those appointments.
The Supreme Court dismissed the petition, concluding that “use of the writ to address prospective conduct is not appropriate.”  The Court stated:  “Quo warranto is used “to determine whether a state officer or agency has improperly exercised a power or right derived from the State,” Fla. House of Representatives v. Crist, 999 So.2d 601, 607 (Fla. 2008) (emphasis added [by Court]), and the history of the extraordinary writ reflects that petitions for relief in quo warranto are properly filed only after a public official has acted.  . . .  A party must wait until a government official has acted before seeking relief pursuant to quo warranto because a threatened exercise of power which is allegedly outside of that public official’s authority may not ultimately occur.  To address whether quo warranto relief is warranted under such premature circumstances would amount to an impermissible advisory opinion based upon hypothetical facts.”  (Footnote omitted.)
Justices Quince and Pariente concurred in the result only, agreeing that the “issue presented is not ripe for consideration” but also stating that some action short of an appointment could support a petition for quo warranto.
Justice Lewis dissented, taking the position that “the writ is not foreclosed as an avenue for relief for threatened and imminent future actions of state officials.”   League of Women Voters of Florida v. Scott, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC17-1122, 12/14/2017), 2017 WL _______.

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee addresses whether candidate may accept endorsements from state attorney, sheriff, and police chief. [Added 9/19/14]
A judge running for re-election asked the Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee whether it would be ethically permissible to accept endorsements from non-judicial elected officials. A summary of the judge’s questions and the Committee responses appears below.
QUESTION 1: “Whether a trial judge, who has opposition for reelection in a multi-county circuit may accept the public endorsement of the circuit’s elected State Attorney, for whom the judge worked three years before becoming a judge and who has publicly endorsed the judge in an earlier contested reelection.” ANSWER 1: “Yes.”
QUESTION 2: “Whether a trial judge, who has opposition for reelection in a multi-county circuit may accept the public endorsement of county sheriffs or police chiefs in the circuit.” ANSWER 2: “Yes.”
QUESTION 3: “Whether the judge may indicate the title or designation of office of the State Attorney, county sheriff, or police chief in any such publicly-stated endorsement, that is, whether the endorsement may list the supporters as State Attorney, county sheriff, or chief of police.” ANSWER 3: “Yes.” Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2014-11 (Election).

Judge running for re-election may not use photo taken at judge’s investiture of judge being sworn in by now-deceased judge.
[Added 8/12/14]
A judge running for re-election asked the Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee whether it would be ethically permissible for the judge to use campaign literature that includes a photo taken at the judge’s investiture that shows the judge being sworn in by another judge, who is now deceased. The deceased judge never publicly endorsed the inquiring judge.
The Committee answered in the negative. “[W]hile the candidate judge’s intentions for including the photograph may be innocent in nature, the Committee believes that inclusion of the photograph could give the impression that the deceased judge previously endorsed or would have endorsed the candidate judge.” This impression would run afoul of Canon 7A(3)€(ii) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, which provides that a judicial candidate shall not “knowingly misrepresent . . . [any] fact concerning the candidate.” Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2014-10 (Election).

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee affirms prior position regarding disclosure and disqualification relating to lawyers on s campaign committee.
[Added 7/31/14]
A judge asked the Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee to reconsider its prior opinion 13-19 concerning a judge’s obligations relating to lawyers who serve on the judge’s campaign committee to raise funds or support. The inquiring judge asserted that Opinion 13-19 “is ‘not practical and does not take into account many circumstances involved in judicial campaigns.’” The Committee declined the invitation to revise its prior opinion. A summary of the questions posed and the Committee’s answers appears below.
QUESTION 1: “Must a judge seeking re-election who has appointed a “‘committee of responsible persons’ for fundraising purposes, and includes attorneys on that committee, always disclose those attorneys’ status to counsel or parties opposing the attorney(s) in proceedings before the judge, or may the judge use discretion based on the extent to which a given committee member has actually participated in the re-election campaign?” ANSWER 1: “Yes. The judge must disclose in all such cases regardless of how active or involved a committee member actually has been.”
QUESTION 2: “Must the judge agree to disqualification in all post-disclosure cases if requested?” ANSWER 2: “No. The mere fact an attorney has contributed to the judge’s campaign or assisted with the judge’s committee, without more, does not require automatic recusal.”
QUESTION 3: “Must a judge assigned to a civil division, in which many cases may be inactive or in default status, actively seek out the attorney or parties in such cases to make the necessary disclosure, or may the judge limit such disclosure to circumstances where the judge is actually asked to take action in the case?” ANSWER 3: “No. The judge may limit disclosure to those cases in which some action by the judge is requested.”
QUESTION 4: “May the judge perform the necessary disclosure using the judge’s official letterhead at public expense?” ANSWER 4: “Yes, because the disclosure is for the benefit of litigants and the integrity of the judicial system, not for the judge’s personal benefit.” Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2014-09.

Judicial candidate may attend event sponsored by political party but may not pay for sponsorship or advertisement in event’s program.
[Added 7/26/14]
All candidates in a judicial race have been invited to attend and speak at an event sponsored by a political party. Judge asked the Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee whether it would ethically permissible to accept the invitation. Judge also asked whether it would be permissible to pay for a sponsorship or advertisement in the event’s program. The proceeds would be used to pay the costs of the event.
The Committee answered “yes” to the first question, provided that the event was not a fundraiser. It cautioned that it was Judge’s responsibility to verify that all candidates have been invited.
Regarding the second question, the Committee stated that “the sponsorship of a table at the event, or the purchase of an advertisement in the program for the event, would reasonably be construed by others to suggest that the candidate supports the political party sponsoring the event. Therefore, the candidate should not sponsor a table or pay for an advertisement in the program.” Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2014-08.

Supreme Court disciplines related violations of Code of Judicial Conduct and Florida law.
[Added 6/30/14]
The Florida Supreme Court accepted a stipulation offered by a sitting judge and the Judicial Qualifications Commission (“JQC”) following institution of a JQC proceeding regarding the conduct of the judge during an election campaign. The Court agreed that the judge had violated Canons 1, 6B, 7A(1), 7A(3), and 7C(3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as Florida Statutes sections 106.07, 106.08, 106.14, and 106.143(6).
The Court imposed a public reprimand and a $25,000 fine.
The conduct at issue included: the judge’s purchase of a table at a political party fundraiser with funds from her non-partisan campaign account; sending out some campaign literature that did not contain the necessary qualifier “for” as required for non-incumbent candidates; and accepting funds from her husband in excess of the $500 contribution limit imposed by campaign law.
One justice dissented, expressing the view that imposition of large fines to punish serious violations of the judicial ethics code undermines public confidence in the judicial system. Inquiry Concerning a Judge, No. 12-551 re: Debra L. Krause, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC13-2263, 6/26/2014).

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issues opinion regarding judicial candidate’s involvement in website through which campaign contributions are received.
[Added 6/10/14]
A judicial candidate asked the Florida Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee a number of questions related to the development and use of a campaign website. The candidate “contemplates creating and managing a website to be maintained by the candidate’s committee. The candidate is the treasurer of the campaign account which will be the source of the funds for the website. The website is to be designated ‘Committee to Elect [candidate]’ and will have a link permitting contributions to the campaign. The candidate also contemplates hiring a communications firm to manage the website.” The Committee summarized the questions and its answers as follows:
“1. May a candidate’s campaign account, for which the candidate is the treasurer, pay for the management of a website maintained by the candidate’s committee? ANSWER: Yes.
2. May the candidate personally oversee the design and content of the website? ANSWER: Yes.
3. May the candidate personally oversee a paid communications firm that is managing the website? ANSWER: Yes.
4. May a principal of the committee’s paid communications firm managing the website be on the candidate’s committee of responsible persons? ANSWER: Yes.
5. May the website contain a link permitting direct contributions to the candidate’s campaign through the website? ANSWER: Yes, so long as the contributions are solicited by a committee of responsible persons.
6. May a single committee member oversee the website? ANSWER: Yes. Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2014-04.

In disciplining bar member who was judicial candidate, Supreme Court reaffirms that prohibition against personal solicitation of campaign funds is constitutional.
[Added 5/7/14]
A candidate for a county court judgeship “signed a campaign fundraising letter, in which she personally solicited campaign contributions.” The candidate “admitted to having reviewed and approved the letter.” The Florida Bar charged the candidate with violating Rule of Professional Candidate 4-8.2(b) (lawyer who is candidate for judicial office shall comply with applicable provisions of Code of Judicial Conduct). Canon 7C(1) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds. The referee recommended that the candidate be found guilty.
On review in the Supreme Court, the candidate asserted that Canon 7C(1) was an unconstitutional restriction on her right to engage in free speech. The Court rejected this defense. The Court concluded that the canon services the compelling state interests of “protecting the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public’s confidence in an impartial judiciary.” The Court further concluded that the canon was narrowly tailored to protect these interests. “Under Canon 7C(1), the [candidate] was not completely barred from soliciting campaign funds, but was simply required to utilize a separate campaign committee to engage in the task of fundraising. In other words, Canon 7C(1) is narrowly tailored because it seeks to ‘insulate judicial candidates from the solicitation and receipt of funds while leaving open, ample alternative means for candidates to raise the resources necessary to run their campaigns.’ Simes [v. Ark. Judicial Discipline & Disability Comm’n] , 247 S.W.3d [876] at 883 [(Ark. 2007)].
The Court imposed a public reprimand as the disciplinary sanction. Florida Bar v. Williams-Yulee, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC11-265, 5/1/2014).

Judicial candidate may permit distribution of endorsement letter authored by lawyer who is also endorsing another judicial candidate in different race.  [Added 12/5/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-21.

 Judge seeking re-election must give notice to parties when member of judge’s campaign committee is opposing counsel in cases likely not to go to trial.  [Added 11/12/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-19. 

Judicial candidate may permit distribution of endorsement letter authored by lawyer who is also endorsing another judicial candidate in different race.  [Added 11/12/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-21. 

Judge running for re-election may use Twitter account, but is better advised to have it created and maintained by judge’s campaign manager.  [Added 7/31/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-14. 

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee addresses whether judicial candidate may attend candidate forum hosted by “political organization.”  [Added 8/20/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-25 (Election). 

Non-judge judicial candidate may pay sponsorship fee to attend and campaign at nonpartisan, nonpolitical event.  [Added 8/17/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-23 (Election). 

Two judicial ethics opinions address when a judicial candidate may use endorsements from non-judicial elected partisan officials.  [Added 7/19/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-18 (Election);  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-21 (Election).

 Judicial candidate may send a representative to speak on candidate's behalf at non-fundraiser political party function.  [Added 7/12/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-20 (Election). 

Judicial candidate may serve as campaign treasurer and open mail and deposit contribution checks in campaign account.  [Added 7/12/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-17 (Election). 

When must a judicial candidate ask a supporter to remove a campaign sign displayed along with a sign for a partisan candidate?  [Added 7/9/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-19 (Election). 

Judicial candidate’s campaign website must state that it is run by campaign committee, not candidate, if site solicits funds or publicly stated support.  [Added 6/8/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-15 (Election). 

Judicial campaign committee may hold fundraising event at home of candidate’s parents, although parents may not be present when solicitations occur.  [Added 6/4/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-14 (Election). 

Judicial candidate may not wear jewelry or clothing depicting elephant or donkey if it would suggest support of political party.  [Added 5/24/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-13.

 Judge member of Supreme Court standing committee may not directly solicit contributions from voluntary bar associations, even for law-related purpose.  [Added 3/2/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-04. 

Judge ethically may not attend victory party for mayoral candidate elected without opposition in judge's city.  [Added 3/2/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-03 (Election). 

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opines regarding acceptance of campaign contributions by judge running for reelection.  [Added 1/19/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-01 (Election). 

Two judicial candidates running in different races may travel together to campaign speaking events if they don't appear to endorse each other.  [Added 1/3/12]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2011-20 (Election).

 Judge seeking re-election  may sponsor hole at charity golf tournament hosted by young lawyers section of local bar association.  [Added 10/8/11]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2011-15. 

Code of Judicial Conduct does not require hearing officer to resign in order to run for election as county judge.  [Added 7/13/11]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2011-09.

 Judge who will seek re-election is disqualified from presiding over cases involving opponent or opponent's law partner and campaign treasurer.  [Added 6/8/11]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion 2011-08.

 Judge's campaign may not use photo of judge receiving award with Florida Supreme Court justices watching.  [Added 7/710]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2010-18 (Election). 

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee discusses when relatives of judicial candidates may solicit contributions and endorsements.  [Added 6/28/2010]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2010-16 (Election). 

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issues opinion regarding judicial election practices.  [Added 6/18/10]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2010-14 (Election). 

Supreme Court reprimands judge for ethical violations during her election campaign.  [Added 2/5/10]  --  Inquiry Concerning a Judge, Nos. 08-392, 08-360 re: Angela Dempsey, 29 So.3d 1030 (Fla. 2010).