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FLORIDA NEWS ARCHIVE - JUDICIAL ETHICS, Extrajudicial Activities

Newly-appointed judge may continue to “disk jockey” show on commercial radio station, per Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee.  [Added 2/23/14]

    Judge was recently appointed to the bench.  Prior to that appointment, for many years Judge hosted a show playing “classic hits” on a commercial radio station.  Judge “acted essentially as a disk jockey – introducing songs, giving the weather, and dispensing music trivia about the songs/artists played.”  Judge’s show contained pre-recorded ads, but Judge was not involved in their selling or recording.  Occasionally Judge participated in on-air giveways of a product or service.  Judge was not an employee of the radio station, but was paid $20 per hour for “live” on-air time – amounting to $60 per week.

    Judge asked the Florida Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee if it would be ethically permissible to continue hosting the radio show.  The Committee answered with a qualified “yes” – Judge may host the show in compliance with relevant provisions of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.

    Extrajudicial activities such as this are governed by Canon 5A, which requires a judge to conduct extrajudicial activities so that they do not:  “(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality; (3) demean the judicial office; (4) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties; (5) lead to frequent disqualification of the judge; or (6) appear to a reasonable person to be coercive.”

    Although Canon 5D(3) prohibits judges from being employees of any business entity.  Judge was an independent contractor rather than an employee.  The “nomial compensation” paid by the station to Judge for the “minimal weekends hours of disk jockeying” was not a problem, in the Committee’s view.  Judge must comply with the compensation restrictions of Canon 6A.

    Finally, Judge should be sure not to “lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.”  Canon 2B.  This means that Judge could not record ads and must refrain “from participation in any on-air promotions, contests or commercials.”  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2014-03.

 

Judge may attend “God and Country Day” sponsored by local church, per Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee.  [Added 1/9/14]

    An inquiring judge asked the Florida Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee several questions relating to an invitation that the judge (and other elected officials) received from a local church that was having a “God and Country Day” focusing on “the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the state and country, and its foundation in Judeo-Christian values.”  The Committee summarized the questions and answers as follows:

    QUESTION:  “May a judge attend an annual event called ‘God and Country Day,’ organized by a local church which focuses on the laws of the state and country and its foundation in Judeo-Christian values?

ANSWER:  Yes.

    QUESTION:  “Is it permissible for a judge to pose for a photograph with the pastor and other elected officials, knowing that it would be published in a local newspaper?

ANSWER:  Yes, unless the judge is aware or has reason to believe that the pastor intends to use the photograph to advance the private interests of the church through solicitation of members or donations.

    QUESTION:  “If asked, may the judge make public religious comments from the pulpit at this event?

ANSWER:  Yes, as long as the judge’s comments do not otherwise violate the Canons.”  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-23.

 

Judge may present a “challenge coin” to jurors, court personnel, or citizens in recognition of contributions to court or community.  [Added 1/9/14]

    The Florida Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee was asked by an inquiring judge whether it would be ethically permissible for the judge to “present a ‘challenge coin’ to jurors, court personnel or deserving citizens who have proven themselves beneficial to the court or their community.  The coin would be given at the judge’s discretion and only as a reward for hard work and dedication to the court or community.  The coin would be produced at the judge’s own expense and would bear the judge’s name and judicial circuit, as well as the date of the judge’s investiture.”

    The Committee answered in the affirmative.  The Committee stated:  “[W]eighing concerns about lending the prestige of judicial office, the Committee has historically opined that judges may commend individuals and organizations so long as the commendations are not to be used for commercial gain or in fund-raising.  Here, the use of a challenge coin to commend individuals seems to be a much more private manner of recognition than writing a letter to a newspaper or publishing an article, and seems unlikely to have the potential to be used for commercial gain or in fund-raising.  Consistent with our prior opinions, the Committee believes commending service to the court or the community with a challenge coin falls within the scope of permissible activity.”  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-22.

 

Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issues 3 opinions concerning judges’ involvement in extra-judicial activities.  [Added 10/31/13]  --  Permissible: Judge serving on board development committee of scouting organization – Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-16.  Permissible:  Judge participating in cook-off competition where winners receive awards – Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-17.  Not permissible:  Judges in domestic violence division participating in fundraising event sponsored by organization that supports domestic violence victims – Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-18.

 

Judge may not use office in building owned by the judge in which judge previously practiced law with family members who still practice there.  [Added 6/6/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-13.

 

General magistrate may take advantage of “government rate” discount for tickets to local legal aid organization’s annual gala.  [Added 6/6/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-12.

 

Judge may write letter informing former client that judge no longer practices, and enclosing copies of documents that former client needs.  [Added 6/3/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-11.

 

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee answers questions relating to judge’s proposed participation in public service announcements.  [Added 5/16/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-10.

 

Judge may reach out to family and friends about dependency court and guardian ad litem program in effort to obtain more volunteers.  [Added 5/16/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-09.

 

Judge may not write letter of recommendation in support of friend’s application for real estate license where friend has prior misdemeanor arrest.  [Added 5/14/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-08.

 

Judge may be on board of non-profit organization dedicated to giving financial help to needy recipients referred by local law enforcement agency.  [Added 4/30/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-06.

 

Judge may serve as paid college football referee as long as it does not conflict with judicial duties.  [Added 4/26/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-07.

 

Judge in dependency division may permit donation of items for children to play with while in court.  [Added 2/19/13]  --   Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-05.

 

Ethically permissible for sitting judge to collect contingent fee from matters on which judge secured settlement offers before taking office.  [Added 2/11/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Opinion 2013-4.

 

Judge ethically precluded from sitting on county task force to address election issues encountered in recent election.  [Added 2/7/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-03.

 

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee addresses when judicial appointee may sell law practice, including goodwill, and collect payments over time.  [Added 2/5/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2013-01.

 

Judge may not attend religious organization’s fundraising dinner after organization mailed invitations listing judge as a “host” by mistake.  [Added 1/2/13]  --  Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion 2012-36.

 

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