Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Judges and Software Funding

A recent opinion of the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:

ISSUE ONE

Whether a judge may,  with the chief judge’s approval, appear and speak in support of a specific  software funding request to the county commission, which provides funding for  judicial technology and software in the county where the judge sits.

ANSWER: Yes.

ISSUE TWO

Whether a judge may  speak individually to county commissioners in a private setting regarding the  judge’s support of a specific software funding request being considered by the  county commission, which provides funding for judicial technology and software  in the county where the judge sits.

ANSWER: Yes, if such conduct is not  prohibited by any provision of law.

As to the second issue:

 It is unclear from this inquiry whether the  judge intends to support or endorse a particular software provider or software product  or intends simply to speak in support of the judiciary’s need for a specific  type of software that may be purchased from multiple vendors.  A majority of the Committee would advise the  judge not to support or endorse a particular software provider or software  product in order to avoid violating Canon 2B’s prohibition against lending the  prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of another.  Nevertheless, the Committee believes a judge  is permitted to address, with the entity responsible for funding  judicial software needs, the pros and cons of  disparate software providers and software products, based upon the judge’s  experience and expertise regarding those needs.  To provide the funding entity with information  to assist it with its budgetary responsibilities, the judge is permitted to  discuss and express an opinion on why one provider or one product is more  conducive to the judiciary’s needs than another.  Of course, this is dependent upon the judge’s  motivation.  That is, if the judge is  solely motivated by a desire to act in the best interests of the judiciary,  then such discussions are permissible.  But,  if the judge is in any way motivated by a desire to lend the prestige of the  judge’s office to advance the private interests of a particular vendor, then  such discussions are prohibited.

(Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2012/07/a-recent-opinion-of-the-florida-judicial-ethics-advisory-committee.html

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