Monday, September 7, 2009

Ready, Aim, Fire

The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has issued an opinion in response to a judge's inquiry whether membership in a local gun club to use its firing range where membership in the National Rifle Association is required contravenes rules of judicial ethics. The conclusion:

In conclusion, eight members of the Committee see no proscription to the judge’s membership in the local gun club where the club requires proof of membership in the NRA as a condition precedent to club membership, so long as the judge does not become personally involved in the NRA’s lobbying or fund-raising efforts and does not participate in the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action and so long as lobbying on issues likely to come before the judge does not become the primary purpose of the NRA.

The judge is reminded of the commentary to Canon 5C(3)(a) which provides, in pertinent part, “The changing nature of some organizations and 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.” This comment has equal relevance to any consideration of Canon 2A’s command that a judge act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary, Canon 2B’s directive that a judge not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of another, Canon 2B’s proscription that a judge not convey the impression that others are in a special position to influence the judge, or Canon 5A’s cautions that a judge be circumspect in the judge’s extra-judicial activities. Thus, the inquiring judge must continually monitor membership in this, or any, organization to ensure that the organization’s activities and the public perception of the organization have not changed to the extent that continued membership implicates any of the various provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

One committee member is unable to distinguish JEAC Op. 91-14 (concluding that a judge should not be a member of the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center) or JEAC Op. 93-50 (advising a judge that membership in the Dade County Political Women’s Caucus, “would be clearly prohibited” because the “Caucus . . . recruits candidates and helps them get elected and also lobbies for various laws [and] operates a PAC to collect and disburse funds for its chosen causes”).  Canon 7 does not pertain, in this member’s view, but this member would advise the inquiring judge against joining the National Rifle Association in order to comply fully with Canon 2A’s command that a judge act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary, Canon 2B’s directive that a judge not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of another, Canon 2B’s proscription that a judge not convey the impression that others are in a special position to influence the judge, and Canon 5A’s cautions that a judge be circumspect in the judge’s extra-judicial activities, all as interpreted in JEAC precedent.

(Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2009/09/the-florida-judicial-ethics-advisory-committee-has-issued-an-opinion-in-response-to-a-judges-inquiry-whether-membership-in-a.html

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