Florida Judicial - RULES
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 its annual opinion, the Florida Supreme Court fulfilled its constitutional duty and certified to the Legislature its findings and recommendations concerning the need for additional judges. The Court certified the need for 4 new circuit court judges (1 in the Fifth Circuit and 3 in the 9th Circuit) and 8 new county court judges (3 in Hillsborough and 1 each in Citrus, Flagler, Palm Beach, Broward, and Lee). The Court also decertified the previously expressed need for 6 other county court judges. 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 senior judge from serving as voluntary trial resolution judge or arbitrator in circuit in which senior judge is presiding as judge. [Added 7/7/16]
In 2014 the Florida Supreme Court amended the Code of Judicial Conduct and related procedural rules to prohibit a senior judge from serving as a mediator in any case in a circuit in which he or she was presiding as a judge. In re Senior Judges as Mediators, 141 So.3d 1172 (Fla. 2014). The Court was concerned a mediator who also served in the same circuit as a senior judge “could be seen as inappropriately creating an advantage in obtaining mediation business for the senior judge or any mediation group with which the senior judge associates.” Id., at 1174.
Effective October 1, 2016, the Court amended Canon 5F(2) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct and its commentary to extend that prohibition and bar a senior judge “from serving as a voluntary trial resolution judge or an arbitrator in any case in a circuit in which the judge is presiding as a senior judge. We agree with the [Florida Bar] ADR Section that the same ethical concerns that warranted prohibiting same-circuit dual service as a senior judge and a mediator and now warrants extending that prohibition to a senior judge who serves as a voluntary trial resolution judge, also warrants extending same-circuit dual-service prohibition to a senior judge who serves as an arbitrator. We also agree with the ADR Section that, like a senior judge who provides mediation services, a senior judge who offers voluntary trial resolution or arbitration services should be expressly prohibited from directly or indirectly promoting those services and from permitting an entity with which the senior judge associates to do so.” 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 its annual communication to the Legislature, the Florida Supreme Court certified the need for 24 additional trial court judges throughout the state. Of those 24 judges, 23 are needed in county court and 1 is needed in circuit court (the Fifth Circuit). No need for additional district court of appeal judges was identified.
The breakdown of needed additional county court judges is: 1 each in Duval, Lee, and Orange; 2 in Palm Beach; 4 in Broward; and 7 each in Hillsborough and Dade. 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]
On its own motion, The Florida Supreme Court amended the Rules of Judicial Administration to prescribe proper attire for judges during court proceedings. New Rule 2.340 provides: “During any judicial proceeding, robes worn by a judge must be solid black with no embellishment.”
The Court explained its reasons for adopting the new rule: “Presiding judges wearing different colored robes or robes with varying embellishments could result in uncertainty for those coming before our courts and serve to counter the efforts the branch has employed to gain the public’s trust. . . . The public should not have to guess as to the meaning of different colored, patterned, or embellished robes. Promoting uniformity in judicial attire, by requiring all judges to wear unembellished, solid black robes, will no doubt avoid these concerns and promote public trust and confidence. The people of Florida have a right to expect equal justice every day, in every court in this state, and should not have to question whether equal justice is being dispensed based on the color of a judge’s robe.” 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]
Expressing the view that advisory opinions of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee had interpreted Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct “in an unduly restrictive manner,” the Supreme Court amended Canon 7 and its Commentary to “expressly authorize judges facing active opposition in a merit retention election for the same judicial office to campaign together, including to pool campaign resources, in order to conduct a joint campaign designed to refute the allegations made in opposition to their continued judicial service, educate the public about merit retention, and express each judge’s views as to why he or she should be retained in office.”
The amendments were effective immediately.
In a lengthy opinion, the Court traced the development and purpose of regulations regarding campaigning as applied to judicial retention elections. The Court explained that certain advisory opinions issued by JEAC, “as well as certain opinions from this Court, see, e.g., In re Kay, 508 So.2d 329, have led to the conclusion that any type of joint campaigning, even for merit retention candidates to the same judicial office facing the same active opposition, is prohibited.” The Court concluded that such an interpretation “does not serve a compelling interest.” To the contrary, “[p]rohibiting judges in a merit retention election for the same judicial office from pooling campaign resources to educate the public about merit retention – as Canon 7 has been interpreted – is inconsistent with judges’ responsibility to promote public confidence in the judiciary.”
The Court emphasized that the amendments apply only to appellate judges seeking retention to the same judicial office who have drawn active opposition. “We do not decide at this time, and these amendments therefore do not address, whether judges seeking merit retention to the same judicial office may explicitly express support for each other.” 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).