Code of Judicial Conduct
A JUDGE SHALL REGULATE EXTRAJUDICIAL ACTIVITIES TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT WITH JUDICIAL DUTIES
A. Extrajudicial Activities in General. A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial 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.
B. Avocational Activities. A judge is encouraged to speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other extrajudicial activities concerning non-legal subjects, subject to the requirements of this Code.
C. Governmental, Civic or Charitable Activities.
(1) A judge shall not appear at a public hearing before, or otherwise consult with, an executive or legislative body or official except on matters concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice or except when acting pro se in a matter involving the judge or the judge’s interests.
(2) A judge shall not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice. A judge may, however, represent a country, state or locality on ceremonial occasions or in connection with historical, educational or cultural activities.
(3) A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to the following limitations and the other requirements of this Code.
(a) A judge shall not serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor if it is likely that the organization
(i) will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge, or
(ii) will be engaged frequently in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member.
(b) A judge as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor, or as a member or otherwise:
(i) may assist such an organization in planning fund-raising and may participate in the management and investment of the organization’s funds, but shall not personally or directly participate in the solicitation of funds, except that a judge may solicit funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority;
(ii) shall not personally or directly participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive;
(iii) shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising or membership solicitation.
D. Financial Activities.
(1) A judge shall not engage in financial and business dealings that
(a) may reasonably be perceived to exploit the judge’s judicial position, or
(b) involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with those lawyers or other persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves.
(2) A judge may, subject to the requirements of this Code, hold and manage investments of the judge and members of the judge’s family, including real estate, and engage in other remunerative activity.
(3) A judge shall not serve as an officer, director, manager, general partner, advisor or employee of any business entity except that a judge may, subject to the requirements of this Code, manage and participate in:
(a) a business closely held by the judge or members of the judge’s family, or
(b) a business entity primarily engaged in investment of the financial resources of the judge or members of the judge’s family.
(4) A judge shall manage the judge’s investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which the judge is disqualified. As soon as the judge can do so without serious financial detriment, the judge shall divest himself or herself of investments and other financial interests that might require frequent disqualification.
(5) A judge shall not accept, and shall urge members of the judge’s family residing in the judge’s household not to accept, a gift, bequest, favor or loan from anyone except for:
(a) a gift incident to a public testimonial, books, tapes and other resource materials supplied by publishers on a complimentary basis for official use, or an invitation to the judge and the judge’s spouse or guest to attend a bar-related function or an activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, including attending, without charge, a bar-related lunch, dinner, or social event; and if the value of attending an individual function or event exceeds $100, the judge shall report it under Canon 6B(2);
(b) a gift, award or benefit incident to the business, profession or other separate activity of a spouse or other family member of a judge residing in the judge’s household, including gifts, awards and benefits for the use of both the spouse or other family member and the judge (as spouse or family member), provided the gift, award or benefit could not reasonably be perceived as intended to influence the judge in the performance of judicial duties;
(c) ordinary social hospitality;
(d) a gift from a relative or friend, for a special occasion, such as a wedding, anniversary or birthday, if the gift is fairly commensurate with the occasion and the relationship;
(e) a gift, bequest, favor or loan from a relative or close personal friend whose appearance or interest in a case would in any event require disqualification under Canon 3E;
(f) a loan from a lending institution in its regular course of business on the same terms generally available to persons who are not judges;
(g) a scholarship or fellowship awarded on the same terms and based on the same criteria applied to other applicants; or
(h) any other gift, bequest, favor or loan, only if the donor is not a party or other person who has come or is likely to come or whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge; and, if its value, or the aggregate value in a calendar year of such gifts, bequests, favors, or loans from a single source, exceeds $100.00, the judge reports it in the same manner as the judge reports gifts under Canon 6B(2)
E. Fiduciary Activities.
(1) A judge shall not serve as executor, administrator or other personal representative, trustee, guardian, attorney in fact or other fiduciary, except for the estate, trust or person of a member of the judge’s family, and then only if such service will not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.
(2) A judge shall not serve as a fiduciary if it is likely that the judge as a fiduciary will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge, or if the estate, trust or ward becomes involved in adversary proceedings in the court on which the judge serves or one under its appellate jurisdiction.
(3) The same restrictions on financial activities that apply to a judge personally also apply to the judge while acting in a fiduciary capacity.
F. Service as Arbitrator or Mediator.
(1) A judge shall not act as an arbitrator or mediator or otherwise perform judicial functions in a private capacity unless expressly authorized by law or Court rule. A judge may, however, take the necessary educational and training courses required to be a qualified and certified arbitrator or mediator, and may fulfill the requirements of observing and conducting actual arbitration or mediation proceedings as part of the certification process, provided such program does not, in any way, interfere with the performance of the judge’s judicial duties.
(2) A senior judge may serve as a mediator in a case in a circuit in which the senior judge is not presiding as a judge only if the senior judge is certified pursuant to rule 10.100, Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators . Such senior judge may be associated with entities that are solely engaged in offering mediation or other alternative dispute resolution services but that are not otherwise engaged in the practice of law. However, such senior judge may not advertise, solicit business, associate with a law firm, or participate in any other activity that directly or indirectly promotes his or her mediation, arbitration, or voluntary trial resolution services and shall not permit an entity with which the senior judge associates to do so. A senior judge shall not serve as a mediator, arbitrator, or voluntary trial resolution judge in any case in a circuit in which the judge is currently presiding as a senior judge. A senior judge who provides mediation, arbitration, or voluntary trial resolution services shall not preside over any case in the circuit where such services are provided; however, a senior judge may preside over cases in circuits in which the judge does not provide such dispute-resolution services. A senior judge shall disclose if the judge is being utilized or has been utilized as a mediator, arbitrator, or voluntary trial resolution judge by any party, attorney, or law firm involved in the case pending before the senior judge. Absent express consent of all parties, a senior judge is prohibited from presiding over any case involving any party, attorney, or law firm that is utilizing or has utilized the judge as a mediator, arbitrator, or voluntary trial resolution judge within the previous three years. A senior judge shall disclose any negotiations or agreements for the provision of services as a mediator, arbitrator, or voluntary trial resolution judge between the senior judge and any parties or counsel to the case.
G. Practice of Law. A judge shall not practice law. Notwithstanding this prohibition, a judge may act pro se and may, without compensation, give legal advice to and draft or review documents for a member of the judge’s family.
[Amended Jan. 10, 2002 (816 So. 2d 1084 ); Feb. 20, 2003 (840 So. 2d 1023 ); Nov. 3, 2005, effective Jan. 1, 2006 (915 So. 2d 145 ); 983 So. 2d 550 ); June 19, 2014 (141 So. 3d 1172); July 7, 2016, effective Oct. 1, 2016 (194 So. 3d 1015) ; May 18, 2017, effective Jan. 1, 2017 (__ So. 3d __).]
Canon 5A. Complete separation of a judge from extra-judicial activities is neither possible nor wise; a judge should not become isolated from the community in which the judge lives. For that reason, judges are encouraged to participate in extrajudicial community activities.
Expressions of bias or prejudice by a judge, even outside the judge’s judicial activities, may cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge and may undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary. Expressions which may do so include jokes or other remarks demeaning individuals on the basis of their race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. See Canon 2C and accompanying Commentary.
Canon 5B. In this and other sections of Canon 5, the phrase “subject to the requirements of this Code” is used, notably in connection with a judge’s governmental, civic or charitable activities. This phrase is included to remind judges that the use of permissive language in various sections of the Code does not relieve a judge from the other requirements of the Code that apply to the specific conduct.
Canon 5C(1). See Canon 2B regarding the obligation to avoid improper influence.
Canon 5C(2). Canon 5C(2) prohibits a judge from accepting any governmental position except one relating to the law, legal system or administration of justice as authorized by Canon 4D. The appropriateness of accepting extrajudicial assignments must be assessed in light of the demands on judicial resources created by crowded dockets and the need to protect the courts from involvement in extrajudicial matters that may prove to be controversial. Judges should not accept governmental appointments that are likely to interfere with the effectiveness and independence of the judiciary.
Canon 5C(2) does not govern a judge’s service in a nongovernmental position. See Canon 5C(3) permitting service by a judge with educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organizations not conducted for profit. For example, service on the board of a public educational institution, unless it were a law school, would be prohibited under Canon 5C(2), but service on the board of a public law school or any private educational institution would generally be permitted under Canon 5C(3).
Canon 5C(3). Canon 5C(3) does not apply to a judge’s service in a governmental position unconnected with the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice; see Canon 5C(2).
See Commentary to Canon 5B regarding use of the phrase “subject to the following limitations and the other requirements of this Code.” As an example of the meaning of the phrase, a judge permitted by Canon 5C(3) to serve on the board of a fraternal institution may be prohibited from such service by Canons 2C or 5A if the institution practices invidious discrimination or if service on the board otherwise casts reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge.
Service by a judge on behalf of a civic or charitable organization may be governed by other provisions of Canon 5 in addition to Canon 5C. For example, Canon 5G prohibits a judge from serving as a legal advisor to a civic or charitable organization.
Canon 5C(3)(a). The changing nature of some organizations and of their relationship to the law makes it necessary for a judge to regularly reexamine the activities of each organization with which the judge is affiliated in order to determine if it is proper for the judge to continue the affiliation. For example, in many jurisdictions charitable hospitals are now more frequently in court than in the past.
Canon 5C(3)(b). A judge may solicit membership or endorse or encourage membership efforts for a nonprofit educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organization as long as the solicitation cannot reasonably be perceived as coercive and is not essentially a fund-raising mechanism. Personal or direct solicitation of funds for an organization and personal or direct solicitation of memberships similarly involve the danger that the person solicited will feel obligated to respond favorably to the solicitor if the solicitor is in a position of influence or control. A judge must not engage in direct, individual solicitation of funds or memberships in person, in writing or by telephone except in the following cases: 1) a judge may solicit for funds or memberships other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority, 2) a judge may solicit other persons for membership in the organizations described above if neither those persons nor persons with whom they are affiliated are likely ever to appear before the court on which the judge serves and 3) a judge who is an officer of such an organization may send a general membership solicitation mailing over the judge’s signature.
Mere attendance at an event, whether or not the event serves a fund-raising purpose, does not constitute a violation of Canon 5C(3)(b). It is also generally permissible for a judge to pass a collection plate at a place of worship or for a judge to serve as an usher or food server or preparer, or to perform similar subsidiary and unadvertised functions at fund-raising events sponsored by educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organizations, so long as they do not entail direct or personal solicitation. However, a judge may not be a speaker, guest of honor, or otherwise be featured at an organization’s fund-raising event, unless the event concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice as authorized by Canon 4D(2)(b).
Use of an organization letterhead for fund-raising or membership solicitation does not violate Canon 5C(3)(b) provided the letterhead lists only the judge’s name and office or other position in the organization, and, if comparable designations are listed for other persons, the judge’s judicial designation. In addition, a judge must also make reasonable efforts to ensure that the judge’s staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control do not solicit funds on the judge’s behalf for any purpose, charitable or otherwise.
Canon 5D(1). When a judge acquires in a judicial capacity information, such as material contained in filings with the court, that is not yet generally known, the judge must not use the information for private gain. See Canon 2B; see also Canon 3B(11).
A judge must avoid financial and business dealings that involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with persons likely to come either before the judge personally or before other judges on the judge’s court. In addition, a judge should discourage members of the judge’s family from engaging in dealings that would reasonably appear to exploit the judge’s judicial position. This rule is necessary to avoid creating an appearance of exploitation of office or favoritism and to minimize the potential for disqualification. With respect to affiliation of relatives of the judge with law firms appearing before the judge, see Commentary to Canon 3E(1) relating to disqualification.
Participation by a judge in financial and business dealings is subject to the general prohibitions in Canon 5A against activities that tend to reflect adversely on impartiality, demean the judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. Such participation is also subject to the general prohibition in Canon 2 against activities involving impropriety or the appearance of impropriety and the prohibition in Canon 2B against the misuse of the prestige of judicial office. In addition, a judge must maintain high standards of conduct in all of the judge’s activities, as set forth in Canon 1. See Commentary for Canon 5B regarding use of the phrase “subject to the requirements of this Code.”
Canon 5D(2). This Canon provides that, subject to the requirements of this Code, a judge may hold and manage investments owned solely by the judge, investments owned solely by a member or members of the judge’s family, and investments owned jointly by the judge and members of the judge’s family.
Canon 5D(3). Subject to the requirements of this Code, a judge may participate in a business that is closely held either by the judge alone, by members of the judge’s family, or by the judge and members of the judge’s family.
Although participation by a judge in a closely-held family business might otherwise be permitted by Canon 5D(3), a judge may be prohibited from participation by other provisions of this Code when, for example, the business entity frequently appears before the judge’s court or the participation requires significant time away from judicial duties. Similarly, a judge must avoid participating in a closely-held family business if the judge’s participation would involve misuse of the prestige of judicial office.
Because a gift, bequest, favor or loan to a member of the judge’s family residing in the judge’s household might be viewed as intended to influence the judge, a judge must inform those family members of the relevant ethical constraints upon the judge in this regard and discourage those family members from violating them.
A judge cannot, however, reasonably be expected to know or control all of the financial or business activities of all family members residing in the judge’s household.
Canon 5D(5)(a). Acceptance of an invitation to a law-related function is governed by Canon 5D(5)(a); acceptance of an invitation paid for by an individual lawyer or group of lawyers is governed by Canon 5D(5)(h).
The attendance, without charge, of a bar-related lunch, dinner, or social event such as a reception or Law Day event does not have to be reported under Canon 6B(2), as long as the actual value of attending the individual function or event does not exceed $100, despite the fact that the aggregate value of attending such functions or events given by the same bar association or other entity in the same calendar year exceeds $100. This differs from Rule 3.15 of the American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct (2011), which requires the reporting of such attendance if the value of attending such functions or events alone or in the aggregate from the same source in the same calendar year exceeds a specified amount.
A judge may accept a public testimonial or a gift incident thereto only if the donor organization is not an organization whose members comprise or frequently represent the same side in litigation, and the testimonial and gift are otherwise in compliance with other provisions of this Code. See Canons 5A(1) and 2B.
Canon 5D(5)(d). A gift to a judge, or to a member of the judge’s family living in the judge’s household, that is excessive in value raises questions about the judge’s impartiality and the integrity of the judicial office and might require disqualification of the judge where disqualification would not otherwise be required. See, however, Canon 5D(5)(e).
Canon 5D(5)(h). Canon 5D(5)(h) prohibits judges from accepting gifts, favors, bequests or loans from lawyers or their firms if they have come or are likely to come before the judge; it also prohibits gifts, favors, bequests or loans from clients of lawyers or their firms when the clients’ interests have come or are likely to come before the judge.
Canon 5E(3). The restrictions imposed by this Canon may conflict with the judge’s obligation as a fiduciary. For example, a judge should resign as trustee if detriment to the trust would result from divestiture of holdings the retention of which would place the judge in violation of Canon 5D(4).
Canon 5F(1). Canon 5F(1) does not prohibit a judge from participating in arbitration, mediation or settlement conferences performed as part of judicial duties. An active judge may take the necessary educational and training programs to be certified or qualified as a mediator or arbitrator, but this shall not be a part of the judge’s judicial duties. While such a course will allow a judge to have a better understanding of the arbitration and mediation process, the certification and qualification of a judge as a mediator or arbitrator is primarily for the judge’s personal benefit. While actually participating in the mediation and arbitration training activities, care must be taken in the selection of both cases and locations so as to guarantee that there is no interference or conflict between the training and the judge’s judicial responsibilities. Indeed, the training should be conducted in such a manner as to avoid the involvement of persons likely to appear before the judge in legal proceedings.
Canon 5F(2). The purpose of the admonitions in this canon is to ensure that the impartiality of the senior judge is not subject to question. Although a senior judge may act as a mediator, arbitrator, or voluntary trial resolution judge in a circuit in which the judge is not presiding as a senior judge, attention must be given to relationships with lawyers and law firms which may require disclosure or disqualification. These provisions are intended to prohibit a senior judge from soliciting lawyers to use the senior judge’s mediation services when those lawyers are or may be before the judge in proceedings where the senior judge is acting in a judicial capacity and to require a senior judge to ensure that entities with which the senior judge associates as a mediator abide by the same prohibitions on advertising or promoting the senior judge's mediation service as are imposed on the senior judge.
Canon 5G. This prohibition refers to the practice of law in a representative capacity and not in a pro se capacity. A judge may act for himself or herself in all legal matters, including matters involving litigation and matters involving appearances before or other dealings with legislative and other governmental bodies. However, in so doing, a judge must not abuse the prestige of office to advance the interests of the judge or the judge’s family. See Canon 2B.
The Code allows a judge to give legal advice to and draft legal documents for members of the judge’s family, so long as the judge receives no compensation. A judge must not, however, act as an advocate or negotiator for a member of the judge’s family in a legal matter.
[Commentary amended Feb. 20, 2003 (840 So. 2d 1023 ); Nov. 3, 2005, effective Jan. 1, 2006 (915 So. 2d 145 ); May 22, 2008 (983 So. 2d 550 ); June 19, 2014 (141 So. 3d 1172); July 7, 2016, effective Oct. 1, 2016 (194 So. 3d 1015) ; May 18, 2017, effective Jan. 1, 2017 (__ So. 3d __).]
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