Thursday, December 22, 2011
A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:
May a judge preside over felony arraignments in a county where the judge’s spouse is the supervisor of the State Attorney’s Office?
The inquiring judge will sit in two counties within the same circuit. While in one county, the inquiring judge will preside over the felony arraignment docket. The inquiring judge’s spouse is the supervisor of the State Attorney’s Office in that county.
The committee reasons:
Here, although the inquiring judge states that the prosecutor who will be covering the felony arraignments is supervised by the chief assistant, and not the inquiring judge’s spouse, it remains true that the spouse is the supervisor of that county’s State Attorney’s Office, and that the chief assistant would logically fall under the spouse’s chain of command. Even if the spouse may not be involved in the direct supervision of the attorneys appearing for the felony arraignments and has a limited caseload, as in opinion 01-05, it is clear that the spouse “is the boss” of that county’s State Attorney’s Office. Consistent with the reasoning in Committee opinions 01-05 and 10-09, and the standards set forth in Canons 3E (1)(d)(ii) and 2A, the appearance of impropriety created when the presiding judge’s spouse is in a position of authority over that county’s State Attorney’s office militates in favor of a blanket disqualification from all felony arraignments in that county for the inquiring judge.