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  • Judicial ethics


    Answers to frequently Asked questions

    June 2015

    A project of the Florida Court Education Council’s Publications Committee

  • Judicial Ethics Benchguide June 2015



    Blan L. Teagle is currently a Deputy State Courts Administrator of the Florida

    Office of the State Courts Administrator. At the time of writing the first edition of

    this benchguide, he was the Director of the Center for Professionalism at The

    Florida Bar. From 1989 to 1998, Mr. Teagle served as staff counsel to the Judicial

    Ethics Advisory Committee as part of his duties as a senior attorney at the Office

    of the State Courts Administrator. He holds a B.A. from the University of the

    South (Sewanee), a J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law, where he

    was editor-in-chief of the University of Florida Law Review, and an M.P.S. (a

    graduate degree in pastoral theology) from Loyola University, New Orleans.

  • Judicial Ethics Benchguide June 2015



    The author would like to thank Susan Leseman, John Meeks, and Deborah

    Lacombe for their collaboration on previous judicial ethics materials upon which

    this benchguide is based. He would also like to thank Todd Engelhardt for his

    research assistance with the first edition of this benchguide.


    Viewpoints presented in this publication do not reflect any official policy or

    position of the Florida Supreme Court, the Office of the State Courts

    Administrator, the Florida judicial conferences, the Florida Court Education

    Council, or the Florida Court Education Council’s Publications Committee. Users

    of this benchguide should always check cited legal authorities before relying on




    The Honorable Angela Cowden, Tenth Circuit, Chair

    The Honorable Chris Altenbernd, Second District Court of Appeal

    The Honorable Josephine Gagliardi, Lee County

    The Honorable Ilona Holmes, Seventeenth Circuit

    The Honorable Kathleen Kroll, Fifteenth Circuit

    The Honorable Louis Schiff, Broward County

    Ms. Gay Inskeep, Trial Court Administrator, Sixth Circuit

    The Publications Committee acknowledges and thanks the Judicial Ethics

    Advisory Committee for its helpful editorial assistance with this benchguide.


    Ms. Madelon Horwich, Senior Attorney, Publications Unit,

    Office of the State Courts Administrator

    © 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Florida Office of the

    State Courts Administrator. All Rights Reserved.

  • Judicial Ethics Benchguide June 2015


    Judicial Ethics Benchguide June 2015 Update

    The Judicial Ethics Benchguide has been updated. The updates are shown

    below, along with the chapter, section, and page number where they are



    3. How Is Code Enforced?

    Page xxiv

    In re Watson, __ So. 3d __, 2015 WL 3767859 (Fla. 2015);

    Page xxv

    Only 1820 judges have been removed from judicial office for improper conduct.

    See In re Watson, __ So. 3d __, 2015 WL 3767859 (Fla. 2015) (opinion not final at

    time of publication of this benchguide); In re Hawkins, 151 So. 3d 1200 (Fla.


    Chapter 1: Use and Abuse of Judicial Power

    10. Does Judge Have Obligation to Report Possible Criminal Activity Judge

    Becomes Aware of During Proceeding?

    Page 16

    In Opinion 15-03, citing Canon 3B(12), the committee reiterated that nonpublic

    information acquired in a judicial capacity may not be disclosed “for any purpose”

    unless the information relates to the judge’s judicial duties (judge may not tell

    employer of party to domestic violence hearing about conduct allegedly committed

    by that party).

    Chapter 5: Disqualification and Recusal

    7. When Does Manifestation of Personal Bias or Prejudice Against

    Attorney Disqualify Judge?

    Page 38

    ; Edwards-Freeman v. State, 138 So. 3d 507 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014)

    12. Personal Knowledge: When Does Judge’s Personal Knowledge of

    Disputed Facts Require Disqualification?

    http://www.jud6.org/LegalCommunity/LegalPractice/opinions/jeacopinions/2015/2015-03.html http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/ethics/canon3.shtml

  • Judicial Ethics Benchguide June 2015


    Page 44

    Ardis v. Ardis, 130 So. 3d 791, 795 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014) (“the fact that a judge

    may have familiarity with the parties and evidence from earlier proceedings does

    not warrant disqualification”);

    14. When Is Economic Interest Disqualifying?

    Pages 49–50

    In Opinion 14-17, the committee advised that a judge must disclose to all parties

    the judge’s business relationship as landlord to a bank/party. While disqualification

    would be required, the parties may waive disqualification after proper disclosure.

    Page 50

    (Opinion 10-25 recedes from Opinion 89-05 to the extent that the judge’s decision

    to disclose required disqualification, noting that “[t]he Code now provides that

    disclosure does not require disqualification.”)

    17. Must Judge Disqualify Self If Former Law Partner Is Appearing Before


    Page 55

    In Opinion 15-01, the committee stated that a judge need not disclose or disqualify

    when a former law partner of the judge’s former spouse, who rents space from and

    shares a receptionist with the judge’s former spouse, appears before the judge. The

    inquiring judge did not receive alimony or support from the former spouse.

    Question changed:

    21. What Is Responsibility of Judge Facing Re-election Campaign When

    Member of Judge’s Campaign Committee Is Opposing Counsel?

    Page 56

    A judge facing a re-election campaign must provide notice to parties when a

    member of the judge’s campaign committee is opposing counsel, even in cases that

    are likely to be handled or disposed of without formal court appearances. The

    judge may not use campaign literature or campaign funds in providing the

    necessary notice. Opinion 13-19. A judge facing a re-election campaign who has

    appointed a campaign committee of responsible persons for fund-raising purposes

    that includes attorneys must always disclose those attorneys’ status to counsel or

    parties opposing them in proceedings before the judge, but the mere fact that an

    attorney contributed to the judge’s campaign or helped with the committee does

    http://www.jud6.org/legalcommunity/legalpractice/opinions/jeacopinions/2014/2014-17.html http://www.jud6.org/legalcommunity/legalpractice/opinions/jeacopinions/2010/2010-25.html http://www.jud6.org/LegalCommunity/LegalPractice/opinions/jeacopinions/eighty9/89-05.html http://www.jud6.org/LegalCommunity/LegalPractice/opinions/jeacopinions/2015/2015-01.html http://www.jud6.org/legalcommunity/legalpractice/opinions/jeacopinions/2013/2013-19.html

  • Judicial Ethics Benchguide June 2015


    not automatically require recusal. Opinion 14-09.

    Chapter 6: Civic, Charitable, Quasi-Judicial, and Extrajudicial Governmental


    2. May Judge Serve on Board of Directors of Charitable Organization?

    Page 59

    A civil traffic infraction hearing officer may serve as president of a legal aid

    organization, as long as the organization does not engage in litigation in traffic

    court, because, unlike judges, civil traffic hearing officers are exempt from Canons

    4 and 5. Opinion 14-13.

    In Opinion 14-25, the committee advised that a circuit judge assigned to the

    juvenile division may not serve as chair of an organization that “seeks to eradicate

    human trafficking through education, outreach, training, advocacy and awareness

    of human trafficking issues for juveniles and adults.” It would cast doubt on the

    judge’s ability to be impartial, as the organization is dedicated to an issue that is

    routinely before the judge.

    In Opinion 14-15, the committee advised that a judge may serve on the board of

    directors of a non-partisan women’s non-profit foundation or the Leukemia and

    Lymphoma Society, which engage in fund-raising activities, as long as the judge

    does not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising

    activities, such as being a speaker or guest of honor or otherwise being featured at

    an organization’s fund-raising event (citing Opinion 09-07).

    5. May Judge Be Member of Governmental Committee, Commission, or

    Task Force?

    Pages 64–65

     Opinion 14-20 (judge may not serve on statutorily created county development authority that decides grant requests “from industry seeking to

    start or relocate in the county and from local governments seeking to

    upgrade their infrastructure” because it would involve funding issues that are

    not related to the improvement of the law, legal system, judicial branch, or

    administration of justice);

    6. May Judge Participate in Ra