The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 70-20
August 26, 1970

While an attorney has both the right and duty to oppose election or reelection of a judge believed by him to be unqualified, he should not act in such a way as to lessen public confidence in our legal system.

Canons: 2 and 27
CPR: Canon 8 and EC 8-6

Chairman Massey stated the opinion of the committee:

An inquiring attorney asks if he may properly make public statements, using any and all mass media available to him, concerning a judge who is seeking re-election, such statements being to the effect that the judge is unqualified and incompetent and is unable to provide a fair trial, giving examples from the attorney's personal experience.

An attorney has both the right and the duty to oppose election or re-election of a judge believed by him to be unqualified. See present Canon of Professional Ethics and Code of Professional Responsibility Canon 8. The Ethical Consideration 8-6 (CPR) is directly in point.

The committee is concerned, however, with the allusion to using mass media and the citing of personal examples to illustrate the attorney's position relating to the judge. EC 8-6 cautions that:

. . .While a lawyer as a citizen has a right to criticize such officials publicly, he should be certain of the merit of his complaint, use appropriate language, and avoid petty criticisms, for unrestrained and intemperate statements tend to lessen public confidence in our legal system. Criticisms motivated by reasons other than a desire to improve the legal system are not justified.

Inherent in the proposed conduct also is the problem of indirect solicitation of business by the attorney. The inquirer is therefore urged to use reasonable bounds of propriety which do not avoid the suggestions of EC 8-6 and which will not lead to advertisement nor solicitation of the services of the attorney personally. Potentially, direct contact with representatives of the mass media to conduct a public attack may violate the proscriptions above noted.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]