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from ... Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court to draft such a code. The
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA
IN RE: PETITION OF THE JUDICIAL ETHICS
Case No. SC02-1285
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ___________________________/ The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”) respectfully requests this Court to consider and adopt this proposed Code of Conduct for Court Employees.
unanimously agrees that there is a need for a Code of Conduct for Court Employees.
The proposed Code (attached hereto as Appendix A)
recognizes and articulates the kinds of behavior that are consistent with the important work of Florida’s judicial branch of government. See, Appendix A.
History In JEAC Op. 2000-08 (March 1, 2000), a member of Florida’s judiciary asked the Committee the following question, “May a judge and/or a court employee accept gifts, including money and redeemable gift certificates, from lawyers, vendors, or other third parties?” The Committee responded, A judge may not accept gifts, favors, bequests or loans from lawyers or their firms if they have come or are likely to come before the judge. Additionally a judge is prohibited from accepting 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. While a judge is required to have staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge, the Code of Judicial Conduct does not directly preclude court employees from accepting money and redeemable gift certificates from lawyers, vendors, or other third parties. Nevertheless, a judge is ethically obligated to instruct court personnel to act in a manner consistent with the judge’s ethical duties and obligations by directing them not to accept such donations. [emphasis added] This opinion exposed the need for a Code of Conduct specifically directed towards court employees which apprises them of their expected ethical conduct, duties, and obligations. We also noted in our opinion that Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct is primarily concerned with the ethical 2
behavior of judges and that it does not have direct application to judicial assistants, bailiffs, or other court employees. The opinion pragmatically recognized “that it is extraordinarily difficult, and nearly impossible, for judges to maintain exhaustive oversight over court employees,” and therefore suggested that, “[w]e fill this chasm to promote, foster, and insure the public’s continued confidence in the integrity of the judicial process” by proposing a Code of Conduct for Court Employees. Id. At the opinion’s end, the Committee recommended that this Court direct us, or some other committee, to draft a code of conduct, similar to the Federal Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees, that sets forth ethical standards, duties, and obligations for judicial employees in the State of Florida. Shortly, thereafter the Committee received such a request from the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court to draft such a code. The results of that request are attached hereto as Appendix A. This proposed Code of Conduct for Court Employees is the culmination of the combined and tireless efforts and dedication of each member of the Committee and its staff: The Honorable Scott J. Silverman, Chairman The Honorable Jeffery D. Swartz, Vice-Chairman 3
The Honorable Lisa Davidson Attorney Marjorie Gadarian Graham The Honorable Charles Kahn The Honorable Phyllis Kotey The Honorable David Levy The Honorable Jose M. Rodriguez The Honorable Emerson Thompson, Jr. The Honorable Richard Townsend The Honorable McFerrin Smith Susan Leseman, staff attorney for the Committee Cal Goodlett, staff attorney for the Committee We also received invaluable assistance and contributions from attorney Fred Baggett of Greenberg, Traurig, et al.; Barbara Scott, Clerk of the Court for Charlotte County, Florida; Reuben Carrerou, Court Administrator of the 11th Judicial Circuit, Miami, Florida; Staff Attorney, E. Ashley Hardee, Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit; University of Miami School of Law students D. Porpoise Evans and Ari Gerstin; and Professor Anthony V. Alfieri, Director of the University of Miami Law School’s Center for Ethics and Public Service. WHEREFORE, the Committee petitions this Court to adopt the proposed Code of Conduct for Court Employees.
_______________________________ The Honorable Scott J. Silverman Chairman, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee 1351 NW 12th Street, #712 Miami, Florida 33125 (305) 548-5613
APPENDIX A - Proposed rule FLORIDA SUPREME COURT CODE OF CONDUCT FOR COURT EMPLOYEES
PREAMBLE The holding of public employment in the court system is a public trust justified by the confidence that the citizenry reposes in the integrity of employees who work in the judicial branch. A court employee, faithful to that trust, therefore shall observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the courts may be preserved. Court employees shall carry out all duties assigned by law and shall put loyalty to the principles embodied in this Code above loyalty to persons or parties. A court employee shall uphold the Constitution, laws and lawful regulations of the United States, the State of Florida, and all governments therein, and shall never be a party to their evasion. A court employee shall abide by the standards set out in this Code and shall endeavor to expose violations of this Code wherever they may appear to exist.
The Code applies to all court employees as defined in this Code. However, court employees who occupy positions with functions and responsibilities similar to those for a particular position identified in this Code should be guided by the standards applicable to that position, even if the position title differs. The Clerks of the Court are independently recognized constitutional officers in the State of Florida and are not employees of the court. Nevertheless, this Code applies to them, their deputies, and employees, when acting under the authority of their Article V powers concerning judicial records and other matters relating to the administrative operation of the courts, in the same manner as it applies to court employees. The Florida Supreme Court has authorized its Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee to render advisory opinions concerning the application and interpretation of this Code. Requests for advisory opinions should be addressed to the Chairperson of the Florida Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. However, court employees should first consult with their court administrator, supervisor and/or appointing authority for guidance on questions concerning this Code and its applicability before a request for
an advisory opinion is made to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. In assessing the propriety of one’s proposed conduct, a court employee should take care to consider all relevant Canons in this Code and applicable statutes and regulations. Should a question remain after this consultation, the affected employee, chief judge, court administrator, supervisor, or appointing authority of such employee, may request an advisory opinion from the Committee. This Code consists of broad statements referred to as Canons, specific rules set forth in Sections under each Canon, a Definitions Section, an Application Section and Commentary. The text of the Canons and the Sections, including the Definitions and Application Sections, are authoritative. The Commentary, by explanation and example, provides guidance with respect to the purpose and meaning of the Canons and Sections. The Commentary is not intended as a statement of additional rules. When the text uses “shall” or “shall not,” it is intended to impose binding obligations whose violation can result in disciplinary action. When “should” or “should not” is used, the text is intended as advisory; the purpose is to clarify what is appropriate conduct, but not as a binding rule under which a
court employee may be disciplined. When “may” is used, it either denotes permissible discretion or it refers to action that is not covered by specific proscriptions. The Canons and Sections are rules of reason. They should be applied consistent with constitutional requirements, statutes, other court rules and decisional law, and in the context of all relevant circumstances. The Code is designed to provide guidance to court employees by creating standards of conduct and fidelity for them, and further to provide a structure for regulating conduct through disciplinary agencies. This Code, however, neither creates nor is it intended to create, substantive or procedural rights. It is not designed or intended as a basis for civil liability or criminal prosecution.
Furthermore, the purpose of the Code would be
subverted if lawyers for mere tactical advantage in a proceeding invoked the Code. The text of the Canons and Sections is intended to govern conduct of court employees and to be binding upon them. It is not intended, however, that every transgression of this Code will result in disciplinary action. Whether disciplinary action is appropriate, and the degree of discipline to be imposed, should be determined through a reasonable and reasoned application of the text and should depend on such
factors as the seriousness of the transgression, whether there is a pattern of improper activity and the effect of the improper activity on others or on the judicial system. This Code is not intended as an exhaustive guide for the conduct of court employees. They should also be governed in their professional and personal conduct by general ethical standards. The Code is intended, however, to delineate basic standards that should govern the conduct of all court employees and to provide guidance to assist them in establishing and maintaining high standards of professional and personal conduct.
“Appropriate authority” denotes the authority with responsibility for initiation of disciplinary process with respect to the violation to be reported.
“Candidate” is a person seeking election for or retention in office by election or appointment. A person becomes a candidate for office as soon as he or she makes a public announcement of candidacy, opens a campaign account as defined by Florida law, declares or files as a candidate with the election or appointment 10
authority, or authorizes solicitation or acceptance of contributions or support. 3.
“Confidential information” includes, but is not limited to, information on pending cases that is not already a matter of public record and information concerning the work product of any judge, law clerk, staff attorney or other employee including, but not limited to, notes, papers, discussions and memoranda.
“Court employee” includes but is not limited to court administrators, personnel under their supervision and contract workers; data processing personnel; bailiffs; law clerks; staff attorneys, and judicial assistants – regardless of funding source. Court clerks, their deputies and employees are not court employees but when acting under the authority of their Article V powers concerning judicial records and other matters relating to the administrative operation of the courts, their conduct shall be subject to this Code in the same manner as it applies to court employees.
“Court Administrator” includes within its scope all court employees who have important supervisory responsibilities. Each jurisdiction must identify the particular court employees who function as administrators within that court system.
“Court personnel” does not include the lawyers in a proceeding before a judge.
“Court proceeding” includes pretrial, trial, appellate review, or any other stage of litigation.
“Financial interest” means ownership of a legal or equitable interest, however small, or a relationship as director, advisor or other active participant in the affairs of a party, however an office in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civil organization is not a “financial interest” in securities held by the organization; the proprietary interest of a policy holder in a mutual insurance company, of a depositor in a mutual savings association, or a similar proprietary interest, is a “financial interest” in the organization only if the outcome of a court proceeding could substantially affect the value of the interest; and ownership of
government securities is a “financial interest” in the issuer only if the outcome of a court proceeding could substantially affect the value of the securities. 9.
“Judge” means one so appointed or elected under Article V of the Florida Constitution and, where applicable, those persons performing judicial or quasi-judicial functions under the direction or supervision of an Article V judge.
“Knowingly,” “knowledge,” “known,” or “knows” denotes actual knowledge of the fact in question. A person’s knowledge may be inferred from surrounding circumstances.
“Law” denotes court rules as well as statutes, constitutional provisions, and decisional law.
“Legal services” are not limited to court appearances, but include any activities that, if performed by an individual not admitted to The Florida Bar, would constitute the unlicensed practice of law.
“Member of a judge’s personal staff” denotes a judge’s judicial assistant, bailiff, and law clerk.
“Member of the employee’s family” or “immediate family” denotes a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or other relative or person with whom the court employee maintains a close familial relationship.
“Member of the employee’s family residing in the employee’s household” denotes any relative of the employee by blood, adoption, or marriage, or a person treated by the employee as a member of the employee’s family, who resides in the employee’s household.
“Nonpublic information” denotes information that, by law, is not available to the public. Nonpublic information may include but is not limited to: information that is sealed by statute or court order, impounded or communicated in camera; and information offered in grand jury proceedings, pre-sentencing reports, dependency cases, or psychiatric reports.
“Outside activities” include any activities performed by a court employee that are not within the scope of his/her employment.
“Personal relationships” encompasses relationships outside the commonly accepted definition of family.
“Political organization” denotes a political party, the principal purpose of which is to further the election or appointment of candidates to political office.
“Public election” includes primary and general elections, partisan, nonpartisan, and retention elections.
CANON 1. A COURT EMPLOYEE SHALL UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY AND THE COURT EMPLOYEE’S OFFICE An independent and honorable Judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society.
Court employees shall personally observe high standards of
conduct so that the integrity and independence of the Judiciary are preserved.
Court employees shall maintain and observe the highest
standards of integrity, honesty, and truthfulness in their professional and personal dealings.
COMMENTARY The fundamental attitudes and work habits of individual court employees reflect on the integrity and independence of the Judiciary and are of vital importance in maintaining the confidence of the public in the Judiciary. Honesty and truthfulness are paramount.
CANON 2. COURT EMPLOYEES SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL THEIR ACTIVITIES
A. A court employee shall not engage in any activities that would put into question the propriety of the court employee’s conduct in carrying out the duties of the employee’s office. A court employee shall not lend the prestige of the office to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for the employee or any other person. B. A court employee shall not use public funds, property or resources wastefully or for any private purpose not authorized by judicial or other administrative authorities. A court employee shall use the resources, property, and funds under the employee’s official control solely for official purposes. C. A court employee shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
A court employee should report to the
appropriate supervising authority any attempt to induce the court employee to violate this Code.
COMMENTARY Canon 2A. In light of the injunction to “avoid impropriety or the appearance of impropriety” court employees must not risk: 1) subjecting themselves to improper influences; 2) participating in activities or allowing themselves to be used in such manner as to impair the dignity and esteem in which the court should be held. Examples of improper conduct include: using official letterhead for private business correspondence; writing letters of recommendation on official letterhead (other than when requested to give a reference on current or former co-workers or subordinates seeking new employment or educational advancement); carrying a business card reflecting an official relationship with the courts unless authorized by the appropriate authority; providing or seeking to provide special consideration regarding traffic citations or parking violations; providing special treatment to particular parties or on particular matters; discussing the merits of cases pending before the court with litigants, counsel or other persons who do business with the court in a manner that gives the appearance of preferential treatment.
To gauge the propriety of an action, court employees should consider how opposing parties and counsel are likely to view the situation. Canon 2B. Court employees shall not, for example, knowingly make false entries on time cards or personnel records; backdate a court document; falsely claim reimbursement for mileage or expenses; misuse the telephone, facsimile machine, or copying machine; or take supplies home for private use. Such conduct may be punishable as theft under the criminal statutes. Canon 2D. As public servants, court employees shall not act in any way that would violate specific laws or the provisions of this Code. Public confidence in the judiciary is maintained by the willingness of each employee to live up to this standard. When faced with conflicting loyalties, court employees should seek first to maintain the public trust.
CANON 3. A COURT EMPLOYEE SHALL ADHERE TO APPROPRIATE STANDARDS IN PERFORMING THE DUTIES OF THE OFFICE A. As a servant of the public, every court employee shall carry out his or her responsibilities in a courteous and professional manner. B. Every court employee shall maintain or obtain current licenses or certificates as a condition of employment as required by law or court rule. C. A court employee shall not publicly comment on the merits of any pending or impending action and should require similar restraint by the court employee’s subordinates.
This proscription does not extend to public
statements made in the course of official duties or when explaining court procedures. D. No court employee shall alter, falsify, destroy, mutilate, backdate or fail to make required entries on any records within the employee’s control. This provision does not prohibit alteration, destruction or expungement of records or documents pursuant to a court order or law. E. No court employee shall discriminate against or engage in bias or prejudice against another person or party based upon race, physical or mental disability, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, age, socio-
economic status, sexual orientation or political affiliation in the conduct of service to the court. F. Except when the giving of legal advice and recommendations are a part of a court employee’s duties, no court employee shall provide legal advice or recommend the names of private attorneys, when acting in the capacity of a court employee. G. No court employee shall refuse to enforce or otherwise carry out any properly issued rule or order of court, nor shall court employees exceed that authority. No court employee shall be required to perform any duties outside of the scope of his or her employment. H. Court employees who are law students, attorneys or members of other professional groups are also bound by the appropriate professional duties of those roles. COMMENTARY Canon 3A.
A court employee should be patient, dignified, respectful
and courteous to all persons, including the general public, when acting in an official capacity, and should require similar conduct of the employee’s subordinates.
A court employee should diligently discharge the
responsibilities of the office in a prompt, efficient, nondiscriminatory, fair and professional manner. Canon 3B. A court employee should be faithful to professional standards and maintain competence in the performance of the employee’s professional duties.
CANON 4. NO COURT EMPLOYEE SHALL DISCLOSE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION ACQUIRED IN THE COURSE OF EMPLOYMENT. A. A court employee shall never disclose any confidential information received in the course of official duties except as required in the performance of such duties, nor should a court employee use such information for personal gain. B. Every court employee who receives information or has actual knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood that another court employee has violated this Code or a law shall take appropriate action. No court employee shall be disciplined for disclosing such a violation to an appropriate authority. C. No court employee shall be a party to an ex parte communication from litigants, witnesses or attorneys to judges, jury members or any other person in the decision-making process, except as provided by law or at the direction of the court. COMMENTARY Canon 4A. Court administrators should educate court employees about what information is confidential and, where appropriate, should designate
materials as confidential. A former court employee should not disclose confidential information when disclosure by a current court employee would be a breach of confidentiality. Canon 4B. If the conduct is minor, appropriate action may include direct communication with the offending court employee or reporting the violation to an appropriate authority. If the conduct is not minor and raises a substantial question as to the offending court employee’s fitness for employment or continued work; or if the offending court employee’s conduct raises a substantial question as to that employee’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness, then appropriate action includes, but is not limited to, reporting the violation to an appropriate authority, court administrator, chief judge or justice. Canon 4C. To ensure that the decision-making process is fair and impartial, court employees are held to certain standards regarding ex parte communication on cases pending before a court. An ex parte communication as used in this Code is an oral or written communication made by a litigant, witness or attorney to a court officer or employee, in which notice and/or the content of the communication was not provided to
all the parties and which is directed towards the merits or outcome of a legal proceeding. It is not an ex parte communication if the communication involves scheduling, administrative matters, or emergencies that do not deal with substantive matters or issues on the merits of a legal proceeding, and so long as the court employee reasonably believes that no party will gain a procedural or tactical advantage as a result of the ex parte communication.
CANON 5. EVERY COURT EMPLOYEE SHALL AVOID CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IN THE PERFORMANCE OF PROFESSIONAL DUTIES A. Court employees shall regulate their outside activities to minimize the risk of conflict with court-related duties. Generally a conflict of interest exists when the court employee’s objective ability or independence of judgment in the performance of his or her job is impaired or may reasonably appear to be impaired. B. A court employee shall not allow family, social or other relationships to influence official conduct or judgment. Court employees shall not be appointed by, or assigned to be directly supervised by, a relative or by a supervisor reporting to a relative. Employees shall not attempt to influence the employment or advancement of a relative by a court except by letters of reference or in response to a person verifying references. All personnel transactions, including but not limited to selection, appointment, promotion, transfer, and assignment of court employees, shall be based on bona fide work-related factors and shall not be based on personal relationships or on any form of favoritism. A court employee shall not be appointed by or assigned to be supervised by a person who is a member of the employee’s
immediate family, nor shall there be any assignments as supervisor and subordinate between employees engaged in a dating relationship. C. No court employee shall enter into any contract with the court system for services, supplies, equipment, leases or realty apart from the employment contract relating to the employee’s position, nor use that position to assist any member of his or her immediate family in securing a contract with the court system in a manner not available to any other interested party. D. No former court employee shall engage in transactions or represent others in transactions or proceedings with the court system for one year after termination of employment in any matter in which the former employee was substantially involved. E. Nothing in this Canon shall prohibit any person or group from donating a gift of historical or other significant value that is given for the benefit of the court system, provided that such a gift is received on behalf of the court system by the appropriate designated authority. F. To secure conformity to the above standards, every court employee who has the authority to enter into or to approve contracts over $1,500.00 in the name of the court system shall file a financial disclosure statement with the chief judge within the court employee’s jurisdiction or his or her designee 27
when employment commences for that position, at termination of employment, and annually while so employed. The information contained in the financial statement shall be consistent with that which is required for disclosure under F.S. 112.3145 (2001).
COMMENTARY Canon 5A.
A conflict of interest exists when a court employee’s
objective ability or independence of judgment in the performance of his/her job is impaired or may reasonably appear to be impaired or when the court employee, or the employee’s immediate family or business would derive unlawful financial or personal gain as a result of the employee’s position within the court system. Court employees shall not dispense special favors to anyone, whether or not for remuneration, nor be or appear to be unduly affected by favoritism, cronyism, kinship, rank, position or influence of any person in the discharge of official duties. No conflict of interest exists if any benefit or detriment accrues to the employee as a member of a profession, business or group to the same extent
as any other member of the profession, business or group who does not hold a position within the court system. Even if no misuse of office is involved, such a conflict or appearance of conflict involving a court employee can seriously undermine the community’s confidence and trust in the court system. Therefore, every court employee is required to exercise diligence in becoming aware of conflicts of interest, disclosing conflicts to the designated authority and ending them when they arise. Canon 5B. A court employee should not serve under a member of that employee’s immediate family nor where a dating relationship exists between supervisor and subordinate. This restriction may result in a qualified candidate being summarily rejected for a position. It may also present a hardship to smaller counties. However, when balanced by the need for actions free of the taint of nepotism both in appearance and in fact, this restriction is necessary. Regardless of the fact that situations may arise in which the persons involved may be personally free from conflict, some employment decisions will remain susceptible to prejudices that occur simply because of the relationship.
This Canon applies to all court employees. When an issue of conflict or appearance of conflict arises, restrictions cannot be limited to situations involving only appointing authorities or managers. However, the application of this Canon must be tempered by appropriate standards of flexibility so that the judiciary insures that it can find the most qualified person for the position. Additionally, local governing bodies are encouraged not to appoint court personnel who are relatives of members of the local governing body.
Canon 5C. This provision is not intended to preclude a court employee from participation in events such as governmental surplus sales.
Canon 5F. Should the legislature amend or modify F.S. §112.3145 (2001) by making for stricter or more relaxed reporting requirements, then this Canon should be read and applied in conformity with those legislative changes.
CANON 6. A COURT EMPLOYEE’S PROFESSIONAL POSITION SHALL NOT BE USED FOR PRIVATE GAIN A. Court employees shall not solicit, accept or agree to accept gifts, loans, gratuities, discounts, hospitality, services or favors directly or indirectly from attorneys, litigants or other persons known to do business with the court. Neither shall court employees request or accept any payment in addition to their regular compensation for assistance given as part of their official duties: 1) based on any understanding, whether explicit or implicit, that the official actions, decisions or judgment of any employee would be influenced thereby; or 2) under circumstances from which one reasonably could infer that the purpose of the donor is to influence the court employee in the performance of official duties. B. Each full-time court employee’s position with the court system must be the employee’s primary employment. Outside employment is permissible only if it complies with all the following criteria: (1) The outside employment is not with an entity that regularly appears in court or conducts business with the court system and it does not require the court employee to have frequent contact with attorneys who regularly appear in the court system; 31
(2) The outside employment is capable of being fulfilled outside of normal working hours and is not incompatible with the performance of the court employee’s duties and responsibilities; (3) The outside employment does not require the practice of law; (4) The outside employment does not require or induce the court employee to disclose confidential information acquired in the course of and by reason of official duties; (5)
The outside employment is not within the executive or
legislative branch of government; however, bailiffs and other law enforcement officers as defined by Florida law are specifically exempted from the application of this subsection; and (6) Where a conflict of interest might reasonably appear to exist or where the outside employment might reflect adversely on the integrity of the court, the employee shall inform the appropriate designated authority prior to accepting the other employment. COMMENTARY Canon 6A. Examples of improper conduct include seeking a favor or gift; receiving a gift or the promise of one, whether it is money, services,
travel, food, entertainment, or hospitality that could be viewed as a reward for past or future services. Receiving fees, money, or other compensation not provided for by law in return for public services is prohibited and may be punishable under the criminal Code. A court employee is permitted under this Code to accept food and refreshments of insignificant value from an attorney during the holiday seasons. A court employee may accept or exchange gifts and other social hospitality (which includes food and refreshments) on customary occasions (e.g., holidays, birthdays or weddings) with other court employees or judges. Generally, a court employee should not give a gift to an official superior; however gifts on special occasions are permitted, so long as they are truly voluntary. Court employees may also accept awards presented in recognition of public service. The standard to keep in mind is that court employees should always conduct themselves in a manner that inspires public confidence in their role as court employees. After all, when serving the public interest court employees must be free from the influence of improper outside interests.
Also, gifts that cannot properly be accepted may be returned at government expense. Nothing in this Canon shall prohibit an employee from: accepting a public award presented in recognition of public service; receiving a commercially reasonable loan made as part of the ordinary transaction of the lender’s business; or donating a gift to a group of employees, e.g. all the employees of an office or unit of the court system, provided that the value and circumstances of the gift are such that it could not be reasonably inferred that the gift would influence the employees in the performance of their official duties or that such influence was the purpose of the donor, and provided that any employee accepting such a gift promptly report the gift to the supervisor, who shall be responsible for its proper distribution. Canon 6B. This limitation does not preclude the performance of routine legal work necessary to the management of personal affairs to the extent that such work: (1) is done without compensation; (2) does not require any act, including an appearance in any court, that would suggest that the position of a Court-employed attorney is being 34
misused, that preferential treatment is being sought, or would otherwise be inconsistent with that attorney’s official duties or primary responsibility to the Court; (3) does not conflict or appear to be in conflict with the attorney’s court duties; and (4)
does not reflect adversely on the court or create the
appearance of impropriety. A court employee who is also an attorney may provide occasional uncompensated legal advice or document drafting for relatives or friends. However, the attorney may undertake litigation only if it is of a personal or family nature and so long as the litigation does not conflict with the provisions of the above subsections (1)-(4).
CANON 7. A COURT EMPLOYEE SHOULD REFRAIN FROM INAPPROPRIATE POLITICAL ACTIVITY A. As used in this section: (1) “Officer” means a court employee, whether elected or appointed, who has the authority to exercise the sovereign power of the state pertaining to an office recognized under the State Constitution or laws of the state. (2) “Subordinate officer” means a person who has been delegated the authority to exercise the sovereign power of the state by an officer. B. Each court employee retains the right to vote as the employee chooses in any public election. C. A court employee may qualify as a candidate for partisan elective office, provided that: (1) A court employee must resign his or her present position before qualifying as a candidate. Such resignation is irrevocable.
resignation must be submitted at least ten (10) days prior to the first day of qualifying for the office the employee intends to seek. The resignation must be effective no later than the earlier of the following dates: i. The date the employee would take office if elected; or 36
ii. The date the employee’s successor would be required to take office. (2) If the employee is a subordinate officer, the employee need not resign unless the employee is seeking to qualify for a public office which is currently held by an officer who has authority to appoint, employ, promote or otherwise supervise the employee and who has qualified as a candidate for reelection to that office. Upon qualifying, the employee must take a leave of absence without pay during the period in which the employee is a candidate for office. A court employee may be a candidate for non-partisan office without separating from employment, provided that the employee complies with the requirements in this Code. D. In general, court employees may participate in any political activities that do not give the impression that the judiciary itself endorses political candidates or supports political causes. Court employees may participate in approved activities regarding measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. E. No court employee shall engage in any political activity during scheduled work hours or while using government vehicles or equipment, or 37
on court property. Further, government owned or leased telephones, fax machines, computers, network connectivity, copiers, and stamps may not be used for any political activity. Political activity includes, but is not limited to: (1) Displaying campaign literature, badges, stickers, endorsements, signs or other items of political advertising on behalf of any party, committee, agency or candidate for political office; (2) Using official authority or position, directly or indirectly, to influence or attempt to influence any other employee in the court system to become a member of any political organization or to take part in any political activity; (3) Soliciting signatures for political candidacy; (4) Soliciting or receiving funds for political purposes. F. Court employees, including members of a judge’s personal staff, courtroom clerks and court administrators, may voluntarily participate in a judge’s or clerk’s campaign activities and may voluntarily contribute funds to a campaign, but only through a judge’s or clerk’s fund-raising committee. However, judges, elected clerks of the court, and court administrators or supervisors shall not require subordinate court employees to participate in
political activities. Nor may they personally receive funds from court employees for any political purpose. G. No court employee may discriminate in favor of or against any coworker, subordinate or applicant for employment because of political contributions or permitted political activities. H. Court employees shall not use their official authority or position, directly or indirectly, to influence or attempt to influence any other court employee to become a member of any political organization or to take part in any political activity.
COMMENTARY Canon 7E. The judiciary seeks to maintain neutrality in political matters. While court employees may express and act on personal opinions about political candidates and issues as other citizens do, they should maintain neutrality in action and appearance when performing their duties on behalf of the judicial department. To this end, court employees should separate their political activities from employment duties.
Canon 7D. Canon 7D conforms to F.S. §99.012 (2001). In the event of an amendment or modification of the statute, then this canon shall be read in such a manner as to conform to the statute.
APPLICATION OF THIS CODE OF CONDUCT This Code of Conduct is intended to complement the Code of Judicial Conduct that governs the conduct of judges and should be interpreted in a manner consistent with that Code. The minimum standards contained in this Code do not preclude the adoption of more rigorous standards by law, court order, local rule or administrative rule. Enforcement of this Code should occur on the local level. Implementation is the duty of those persons or entities otherwise responsible for disciplinary matters, and every effort should be made to ensure enforcement of this Code. EFFECTIVE DATE OF COMPLIANCE A person to whom this Code is applicable shall comply immediately with all provisions herein.