Friday, July 30, 2010
A judge may properly conduct a seminar on the "do's and dont's" of practice, according to a recent opinion of the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. The committee recited the facts set forth in the request for the opinion:
The Inquiring Judge asks for an opinion as to whether it is appropriate for a judge to present a seminar for attorneys discussing the “do’s and don'ts of trying a case and arguing to a judge.” According to the judge, the topics will be addressed from the point of view of both plaintiff and defense counsel in civil and criminal cases and will include the “do’s” and “don'ts” of framing jury instructions; delivering voir dire, opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations and closing arguments; using discovery depositions in civil and family cases as substantive evidence; and using preserved testimony by video as substantive evidence. The judge indicates no intention to accept a fee for presenting the seminar, which may be presented live or recorded and posted on the circuit’s website for viewing. The judge adds that the seminar may be advertised by The Florida Bar.
And the opinion:
Based on the information provided, presentation of the seminar described by the Inquiring Judge is the type of activity promoted under Canon 4B. As a matter of course, we remind the Inquiring Judge that in undertaking any quasi-judicial activity, to be mindful not to cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially; undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality; demean the judicial office; permit any interference with the proper performance of judicial duties; or appear to a reasonable person to be coercive.