When it comes to elections, judgeships are never “politics as usual.” Thanks to a special set of ethics rules called Canon 7 of Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, candidates for judicial office must abide by the strictest standards imposed in any type of election.
As candidates are reminded by Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince, “Public respect and confidence are so essential to a judge’s role that they are woven into the selection of judges through the electoral process. The Florida Supreme Court has adopted rules that govern judicial elections and prohibit conduct that would undercut public confidence in our justice system. Together with the Judicial Qualifications Commission and The Florida Bar, we vigorously enforce these rules.”
The standards governing judicial elections will be explained to candidates, campaign managers, the news media, and others in a series of forums designed to raise awareness of Canon 7. The forums are being organized by the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar Board of Governors in conjunction with the Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee and the state’s trial court chief judges. The ninety-minute forums are scheduled at 1:00 p.m. local time (with four exceptions noted below), Thursday and Friday, May 6 – 7, in all circuits in which there will be contested judicial elections. Forums in the First, Third, and Fifteenth Circuits are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. local time. The forum in the Eighth Circuit is scheduled for 9 a.m. local time.
Chief judges will open the forums with brief remarks stressing the nonpartisan character of judicial races, then present a videotaped introduction by the Chief Justice. Representatives of The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors will speak briefly regarding the Bar’s role in judicial elections. Florida’s Division of Elections has prepared helpful information about Florida’s election laws which will also be presented. Members of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee will then provide a summary review of Canon 7, call attention to informational resources, and further impress upon candidates, campaign staff, and others in the community the seriousness with which the Supreme Court views any abuse of the election process.
The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting judges and judicial candidates. The committee’s elections booklet, “An Aid to Understanding Canon 7,” will be distributed at all forums, first to candidates and campaign managers, then to others as available. An online version of the Canon 7 booklet may be accessed on the Supreme Court’s website at www.floridasupremecourt.org, by first selecting Public Information, then, under Court Documents, scrolling down to Judicial Conduct.
All judicial candidates, including those who may anticipate running for potential new judgeships, and their campaign managers are encouraged to attend the forums in their respective circuits. Invitations have also been extended to local bar association presidents, state and county political party chairs, and the media. All forums are open to the public.
Sixth –Pasco and Pinellas Counties
Thursday, May 6
Criminal Justice Center
First Floor Conference Room
14250 49th Street North
Thirteenth –Hillsborough County
Friday, May 7
800 E. Twiggs Street
Judicial Conference Room, 6th Floor
Tampa, FL 33602