The Florida Bar

February 18, 1963

Judges and lawyers may properly appear on a public service television program emphasizing cases and subjects of public interest.

Note: Judicial conduct is governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Judicial Ethics Committee issues opinions interpreting this Code.

Canon: 27

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar requested the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics on the question of a television channel presenting a public service program involving courts, judges and lawyers, emphasizing cases and subjects which have the greatest local interest and which deal in broad principles. He states that there will be three participants consisting of two lawyers and one moderator. The moderator may be a lawyer, a lay person or a judge. The moderator will address the viewing audience who will constitute the jury, and will advise them that the program is not and should not be considered to be a true courtroom case but merely is a dramatization of an actual case that has been adjudicated and has become final. He will introduce opposing counsel by name and advise the audience that they are appearing not as lawyers but as actors best qualified to present the views of each side of the case. He will relate briefly the nature of the case to be presented, emphasizing the aspects of the case bearing upon the public interest. Actual names of the parties to the cause will be replaced by fictitious names. The counsel will address the television audience as though it were in fact the jury and his address a summation. The judge will render a verdict which will be the verdict that was actually rendered in the case being dramatized. The programs will not be commercially sponsored.

The member asked:

(1) May lawyers and judges appear on the program, using their proper names?

Our answer to this question is Yes.

(2) May they be identified as judges and attorneys without further reference to their address or telephone number or other descriptive background material?

Our answer to this question is Yes.

(3) Are lawyers who are employed by the County or State or by a municipality or other governmental agency bound by any other rules or ethical considerations beyond those which apply to lawyers generally?
Our answer to this question is that we know of none.

(4) If the programs are commercially sponsored, are any of the questions to be answered differently?

Our answer to this question is No.

One member of the Committee believes that no attorney should participate in any program of the nature described unless it is presented either by or under the direct supervision of a committee of the Bar in which non-participating attorneys are able to view the situation objectively and to so control the presentation that it will reflect as much credit as possible upon the Bar and Courts without subjecting them to improper criticism.

Another member feels that, if the programs are commercially sponsored, it would be improper to identify the participants as lawyers or judges, and in any case we should be very hesitant to approve the facts presented as being actual facts and the actual decision rendered as one rendered by the courts of Florida.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]