Florida Judicial - RULES
Supreme Court declines to amend Code of Judicial Conduct concerning judge-to-judge solicitation of funds to aid hurricane victims, viewing existing Code as sufficiently clear. [Added 6/15/20]
The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee (“JEAC”) had issued an advisory opinion addressing whether it was permissible under the Code of Judicial Conduct for judges to solicit donations from other judges so that the Conferences of Circuit Judges and County Judges could provide monetary assistance to fellow judges and court personnel affected by Hurricane Michael.
JEAC Opinion 2018-27 addressed the proposed conduct. The opinion determined that the question was controlled by Canon 4. The opinion noted that the Conferences are not civic or charitable organizations under Canon 5, which permits a judge to engage in fundraising activities for “educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organization not conducted for profit” if the solicitations are aimed only at judges over whom the soliciting does not have supervisory or appellate authority.
The JEAC, however, split on the question of whether the proposed conduct was permitted under Canon 4D(2)(a). That Canon permits judges to be involved in a fund-raising event “only if the event concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and the funds raised will be used for a law related purpose(s).” Six of the 12 JEAC members believed that Canon 4D(2)(a) permitted the conduct only if the funds were used for a law-related purpose, while the other 6 members believed that the Canon did not expressly contain such a limitation.
The Supreme Court asked the JEAC to further consider the issue and recommend whether the proposed conduct should be permitted. The JEAC filed a report unanimously recommending prohibition of the proposed conduct, along with suggested amendments to Canons 4 and 5 that a minority of the committee believed were needed for clarification.
The Court declined to adopt the amendments. “[T]he Court has determined that the existing rule provisions prohibit the judge-to-judge solicitation addressed in advisory opinion 2018-27 and that the scope of those provisions is not ambiguous. The Conferences are not civic or charitable organizations. . . . Rather, as organizations tasked with judicial education, improving the administration of justice, and the overall betterment of the judicial system in Florida, they are law-related organizations under Canon 4D. . . . Although Canon 4D(2)(a) permits certain judge-to-judge fundraising on behalf of the Conferences, the use of such funds is necessarily limited to law-related purposes consistent with the Conferences’ mission. . . . The desire to provide financial aid to fellow judges and court staff adversely affected by Hurricane Michael is laudable, but such assistance may only be provided through a civic or charitable organization in accordance with Canon 5C(3), not through the Conferences.” In re: Amendments to Canons 4 and 5 of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC19-1625, 5/28/2020), 2020 WL 2759740.
Supreme Court certifies to Legislature need for additional circuit and county court judges. [Added 1/4/19]
Fulfilling its constitutional obligation to annually determine the need for additional judges, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion setting forth its findings and recommendations to the Florida Legislature. The Court summarized: “[W]e certify the need for two additional circuit court judgeships in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, one additional circuit court judgeship in the First Judicial Circuit, one additional circuit court judgeship in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, four additional county court judgeships in Hillsborough County, and no additional judgeships in the district courts of appeal. We decertify the need for two county court judgeships in Brevard County and one county court judgeship in Pasco County.”
The Court further noted that potential changes in the jurisdiction of county courts could affect the need for judges. In re: Certification of Need for Additional Judges, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC18-1970, 12/28/2018), 2018 WL 6816610.
Supreme Court amends Fla.R.Jud.Admin. 2.205 to emphasize that no judge, Supreme Court-created entity, or conference of judges may recommend to other branches of government any budget or other policy inconsistent with position adopted by Supreme Court. [Added 7/9/18]
On its own motion, the Florida Supreme Court amended Fla.R.Jud.Admin. 2.205, which had been amended in 2012 “as part of the Court’s goal to ‘strengthen the governance and policy development structures of the Florida judicial branch’ . . . expressly recognize that this Court establishes policy for the judicial branch.”
The existing rule prohibited any judge, supreme court-created body, or conference of judges from recommending to the legislative branch or executive branch budget priorities (including compensation or benefits) that had not been approved by the Supreme Court. The rule contains an exception for a judge expressing his or her personal views, provided the judge affirmatively makes it clear that he or she is not speaking on behalf of the judicial branch.
As amended, Rule 2.205 will “further prohibit any judge or supreme court created body, or any conference of judges from recommending to ‘any legislative or executive branch entity’ ‘any policy inconsistent with a policy position adopted by [this Court].’ The Court also adds a sentence to that subdivision to make clear that ‘[n]o resources of any judicial branch entity may be used to facilitate or support the expression of [a judge’s] personal views.’"
The amendments are effectively immediately, but the Court allowed a 60-day period for interested persons to file written comments regarding the amendments. In re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.205, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC18-002, 7/6/2018), 2018 WL 3322710.
Supreme Court amends Code of Judicial Conduct to clarify judges’ obligations regarding reporting expenses of permissible quasi- or extra-judicial activities that are reimbursed or paid by state government entities. [Added 5/18/18]
On its own motion, the Supreme Court amended Canon 6A(3) and related Commentary to clarify judges’ financial reporting obligations. Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2018-7 concluded that Canon 6A(3) required judges who attended quasi-judicial or permissible extra-judicial activities (e.g., the annual statewide conference of judges) to report the reimbursement or direct payment of those travel expenses by the State of Florida if that amount, individually or combined with other reimbursements or direct payments in the same calendar year, exceeded $100.
In explaining its decision to amend Canon 6A(3) in response to that opinion, the Supreme Court stated: “There is no need for such public reporting because in order for the State or a judicial branch entity to reimburse or pay the reasonable expenses associated with a judge’s participation in a permitted quasi-judicial activity, the judge’s participation in the event or activity must be among the responsibilities of that judicial office and promote the official business of the court system or the specific judicial branch entity. And, therefore, the reimbursement or payment of such expenses would be a public record under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420. . . . Therefore, we amend Canon 6A(3) and Form 6A to clarify that a judge must only report expense reimbursements and direct payments, and waivers of fees or charges, as required by Canons 6A(3) and 6B(2), when the reimbursement, payment, or waiver is from a source other than the State or a judicial branch entity, as defined in [Fla.R.Jud.Admin.] 2.420(b)(2).” In re: Amendments to Canon 6 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC18-648, 5/10/2018), 2018 WL 2146549.
Supreme Court certifies to Legislature need for 2 additional circuit court judges and 2 additional county court judges. [Added 11/26/17]
Fulfilling its constitutional duty (Art. V, sec. 9), the Florida Supreme Court issue its annual certification of the need for additional judges to the Florida Legislature. The Court certified the need for 4 trial judges overall: 2 circuit judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit; and 2 county court judges in Hillsborough County.
The Court uses a weighted caseload system as a primary basis for assessing trial court judicial needs. Using this standard, the Court “examined case filing and disposition data, analyzed various judicial workload indicators, applied a three-year average judicial need, and considered judgeship requests submitted by the lower courts including all secondary factors identified by each chief judge for support of their requests.” The Court also factored in “an allowance for administrative time spent by chief judges and county court time spent on county election canvassing boards.”
To aid the lower courts, the Court urged the Legislature to favorably consider its budget request for technology. Additionally, the Court noted difficulties in securing senior judges to serve in the circuits, and expressed its concern “that the one-year sit-out provision for retiring judges is therefore impeding the court system’s ability to secure senior judges in different regions throughout the state. We encourage the Legislature to revisit the one-year sit-out requirement, as it is detrimental to Florida’s court system and the administration of justice.”
Finally, the Court decertified the need for 13 county court judgeships. In re: Certification of Need for Additional Judges, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC17-1936, 11/22/2017), 2017 WL 5623576.
Supreme Court amends Code of Judicial Conduct to address financial and gift disclosure requirements for judges. [Added 5/31/17]
On its own motion, the Florida Supreme Court amended the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct to address financial and gift disclosure and reporting issues. The amended provisions are effective January 1, 2017, with the first disclosure reports under those provisions due by July 1, 2018. Some of the changes are outlined below.
Amended Canon 5D(5)(a) clarifies that attending an individual bar-related event without charge need not be reported as a gift if the value of the individual event does not exceed $100 (even if the aggregate value of attending such functions is over $100 annually). This provision of the Florida Code differs from the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct.
Amended Canon 6A clarifies that allowable compensation, honoraria and speaking fees, and reimbursement of expenses over their actual cost are reportable income under Canon 6B(1). Further, reimbursement or direct payment of expenses, as well as fee waivers for a judge or judge’s guest, must be reported under Canon 6B(2) if alone or in the aggregate from the same source exceeds $100 in a calendar year.
Finally, the Court reiterated that “the filing of the public financial disclosure reports required by the Code is the only public disclosure of financial interests, compensation, gifts, or other benefits a judge or justice is required to make.” (Footnote omitted.) In re: Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC17-680, 5/18/2017), 2017 WL 2210404.
Supreme Court certifies need for 12 new trial judges throughout state. [Added 12/19/16] -- In re: Certification of Need for Additional Judges, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC16-2127, 12/15/2016), 2016 WL 7242657.
Supreme Court amends Code of Judicial Conduct to prohibit any In re: Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct – Senior Judges Serving as Voluntary Trial Resolution Judges and Arbitrators, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC16-63, 7/7/2016), 2016 WL _______.
Supreme Court certifies need for 24 additional trial court judges throughout state. [Added 11/19/15] -- In re: Certification of Need for Additional Judges, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC15-1991, 11/19/2015).
On its own motion, Supreme Court amends Rules of Judicial Administration to prescribe proper attire for judges during court proceedings. [Added 9/12/15] -- In re: Amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration – New Rule 2.340, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC15-944, 9/10/2015), 2015 WL 5254238.
Supreme Court amends Code of Judicial Conduct to permit coordinated campaigns and pooled resources in appellate judge retention elections. [Added 6/11/15] -- In re: Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct – Canon 7, __ So.3d __ (Fla., SC13-1951, 6/11/2015), 2015 WL 3617904.
Supreme Court doubles the number of ethics CLE hours required for Florida judges. [Added 12/15/10] -- In re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.320, 51 So.3d 1151 (Fla. 2010).
Supreme Court amends rules governing mediator advertising and marketing practices. [Added 4/2/10] -- In re: Amendments to the Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators, 32 So.3d 611 (Fla. 2010).
Supreme Court amends Florida Rules of Judicial Administration concerning judicial disqualification motions. [Added 7/15/08] -- In re: Amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, 986 So.2d 560 (Fla. 2008).
Supreme Court extends provisions of Code of Judicial Conduct to non-judge candidates for judicial office. [Added 7/6/08] -- In re: Amendment to the Code of Judicial Conduct – Amendments to Canon 7, 985 So.2d 1073 (Fla. 2008).
Supreme Court amends Code of Judicial Conduct, expanding judges' ability to ethically participate in fundraising activities. [Added 6/25/08] -- In re: Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct - Limitations on Judges' Participation in Fundraising Activities, 983 So.2d 550 (Fla. 2008).
Florida Code of Judicial Conduct amended to conform to 2003 revisions to ABA Model Code. [Added 1/5/05]
The Supreme Court amended the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct to conform to the 2003 revisions to the American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The Court had asked the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee to study the matter, and adopted the recommendations submitted by the Committee.
Amended were Canons 2, 3, and 7, as well as the "Definitions" and "Application" sections. The amendments primarily relate to the impartiality of a judge with respect to matters that might come before him or her, and most deal with public comments that a judge or candidate might make that could affect impartiality or the appearance of impartiality. Key amendments are summarized below.
Definitions. The terms "impartial" and "impartiality" are now included in the "Definitions" section of the Code. They denote "absence of bias or prejudice in favor of, or against, particular parties or classes of parties, as well as maintaining an open mind in considering issues that may come before the judge."
Commentary to Canon 2A. Adds "the restrictions on judicial speech imposed by Sections 3B(9) and (10)" [concerning making statements that might be or be viewed as partial or unfair] as examples of restrictions on a judge's conduct that might be necessary to protect the "integrity, impartiality, and independence of the judiciary." Related language has been added to the Commentary to Canon 3B.
Canon 3B. Subsection (10) now states: "A judge shall not, with respect to parties or classes of parties, cases, controversies or issues likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office."
Canon 3E. Adds a provision stating that a judge should disqualify himself or herself in situations where "the judge, while a judge or a candidate for judicial office, has made a public statement that commits, or appears to commit, the judge with respect to: (i) parties or classes of parties in the proceeding; (ii) an issue in the proceeding; or (iii) the controversy in the proceeding."
Canon 7A. Revises the provision concerning public promises or commitments by judicial candidates to state that a candidate for judicial office shall not "with respect to parties or classes of parties, cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office."
"Application" section. Changes references to "magistrates" to "civil traffic infraction hearing officers."In re: Amendment to Code of Judicial Conduct - American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct, 918 So.2d 949 (Fla. 2006).
Supreme Court amends Judicial Code Canon 7 on public statements by judicial candidates concerning pending cases. Amendment to Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 7 (Political Activity), 897 So.2d 1262 (Fla. 2005).