IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO CANON 6 OF the CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT.

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IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO CANON 6 OF the CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT.

No. SC18–648

Decided: May 10, 2018

The Court, on its own motion, amends the Code of Judicial Conduct (Code) to clarify the Canon 6A(3) public reporting requirement for the reimbursement or direct payment of expenses, and waiver of fees or charges associated with a judge's participation in quasi-judicial and extrajudicial activities permitted by the Code.1

In a recent advisory opinion, the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee (JEAC) concluded that Canon 6A(3) requires a judge who attends a quasi-judicial activity, like one of the annual, statewide conferences of judges, to report the reimbursement or direct payment of the judge's travel expenses by the State of Florida, if the reimbursement or payment exceeds $100 individually or combined with other such reimbursements or direct payments in the same calendar year. See Fla. JEAC Op. 2018–7, at 4–5. In the same advisory opinion, the JEAC advised that Canon 6A(3) requires a judge, who is designated by a conference of judges to travel to Tallahassee concerning legislative matters, to report the reimbursement and direct payment of the judge's travel expenses, if they exceed $100 from the same source in the same calendar year. Id. at 5.

In 2017, when the Court amended Canon 6 to require a judge to report the reimbursement or direct payment of expenses, and the waiver of fees or charges associated with the judge's participation in quasi-judicial and extrajudicial activities permitted by the Code,2 the Court did not intend to require the reporting of the reimbursement or direct payment of expenses by the State or a judicial branch entity, such as one of conferences of judges recognized by this Court in Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.220 (Conferences of Judges). There is no need for such public reporting because in order for the State or a judicial branch entity to reimburse or pay the reasonable expenses associated with a judge's participation in a permitted quasi-judicial activity, the judge's participation in the event or activity must be among the responsibilities of that judicial office and promote the official business of the court system or the specific judicial branch entity. And, therefore, the reimbursement or payment of such expenses would be a public record under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420.

Therefore, we amend Canon 6A(3) and Form 6A to clarify that a judge must only report expense reimbursements and direct payments, and waivers of fees or charges, as required by Canons 6A(3) and 6B(2), when the reimbursement, payment, or waiver is from a source other than the State or a judicial branch entity, as defined in Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420(b)(2).3 We also amend the Commentary to Canon 6A to explain that the Canon 6A(3) reporting requirement is similar to the reporting requirement in Rule 3.15(A)(3) of the American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct (2011), which requires a judge to report expense reimbursements and fee waivers associated with the judge's participation in permitted extrajudicial activities, from sources other than the judge's employing entity, when the amount received from same source in the same calendar year exceeds a specified amount. We further amend the Commentary to Canon 6A to emphasize that a judge does not have to report the amount of the reimbursement, payment, or waiver on Form 6A; only the dates, location, and purpose of the event or activity for which expenses were reimbursed or paid or fees were waived must be reported.

Accordingly, we amend the Code of Judicial Conduct, as reflected in the appendix to this opinion. New language is indicated by underscoring and deletions are indicated by struck-through type. The amendments are effective immediately upon the release of this opinion. Because the amendments were not published for comment prior to their adoption, interested persons shall have sixty days from the date of this opinion in which to file comments with the Court.4 The Court encourages the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, the Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges, the Conference of Circuit Court Judges, and the Conference of County Court Judges to comment on the amendments.

It is so ordered.

Attachment

FOOTNOTES

1.   We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.

2.   In In re Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct, 218 So.3d 432, 436–39 (Fla. 2017), the Court amended Canons 6A(3) (retitled “Reimbursement or Payment of Expenses, and Waiver of Fees or Charges”) and 6B(2) (retitled “Gifts, Reimbursements or Payments of Expenses, and Waivers of Fees or Charges”), and Form 6A (retitled “Disclosure of Gifts, Expense Reimbursements or Payments, and Waivers of Fees and Charges”) to require a judge to report the reimbursement or direct payment of expenses, and the waiver of fees or charges associated with the judge's participation in quasi-judicial and extrajudicial activities permitted by the Code, when the amount of the reimbursement, payment, or waiver alone or in the aggregate with other reimbursements, payments, or waivers received from the same source in the same calendar year exceeds $100.

3.   Under rule 2.420(b)(2), the judicial branch of government “includes the state courts system, the clerk of court when acting as an arm of the court, The Florida Bar, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and all other entities established by or operating under the authority of the supreme court or the chief justice.”

4.   All comments must be filed with the Court on or before July 9, 2018, with a separate request for oral argument if the person filing the comment wishes to participate in oral argument, which may be scheduled in this case. If filed by an attorney in good standing with The Florida Bar, the comment must be electronically filed via the Florida Courts E–Filing Portal (Portal) in accordance with In re Electronic Filing in the Supreme Court of Florida via the Florida Courts E–Filing Portal, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC13–7 (Feb. 18, 2013). If filed by a nonlawyer or a lawyer not licensed to practice in Florida, the comment may be, but is not required to be, filed via the Portal. Comments filed via the Portal must be submitted in Microsoft Word 97 or higher. See In re Electronic Filing in the Florida Supreme Court, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC17–27 (May 9, 2017). Any person unable to submit a comment electronically must mail or hand-deliver the originally signed comment to the Florida Supreme Court, Office of the Clerk, 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399–1927; no additional copies are required or will be accepted.

PER CURIAM.

LABARGA, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, CANADY, POLSTON, and LAWSON, JJ., concur.

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