July 20, 2011
Home Rule For Judges
The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has issued an opinion concerning the propriety of a judge's spouse hosting a campaign event in their home:
ISSUE: Whether a judge’s spouse hosting a campaign event for a candidate at the home of the judge and spouse poses any potential ethical violations for the judge.
ANSWER: Yes. The judge may not attend the event, and the judge should adamantly and genuinely encourage the spouse to host the event elsewhere to avoid the appearance of impropriety on the part of the judge.
The inquiring judge’s spouse is an elected official in a municipality located within the jurisdiction in which the inquiring judge serves. A candidate has requested the inquiring judge’s spouse to host a campaign event at the home of the inquiring judge and spouse.
The committee recognized that the spouse could do what spouses can do, but
We expect that the inquiring judge’s spouse would abide by the inquiring judge’s request to host the event elsewhere. However, we also recognize that the spouse is free to reject that request. Thus, the inquiring judge should seek to avoid the appearance of impropriety by adamantly and genuinely encouraging the spouse to host the event elsewhere.
One member of the committee believes that the inquiring judge should not permit the inquiring judge’s home to be used for a campaign gathering on behalf of a political candidate who is not a member of the household. This member assumes that most married judges are in marriages in which spouses would not schedule campaign events in the marital home without clearing it with the other spouse. This member believes that this assumption accords with reality, not to mention public perception.
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