VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE FORM GIVES PUBLIC A WAY TO LEARN ABOUT JUDICIAL CANDIDATES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2014
CONTACT: Susannah Lyle; email@example.com,
The Florida Bar
TELEPHONE: (850) 561-5666
When voters elect trial court judges, they choose the people to preside over business disputes and family matters in civil court as well as criminal trials. But frequently voters make these important decisions with only limited knowledge about candidates, who are constrained by law in what they can say in campaigns.
With 67 trial court races on the ballot across the state this year, voters can learn more about the county and circuit judge candidates in those races through The Florida Bar Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement program.
Beginning July 15, information about candidates' backgrounds and personal statements can be found on The Florida Bar website at www.floridabar.org/judicialcandidates.
Contested trial court races will be on the Aug. 26 primary ballot. In races with three or more candidates and where one candidate does not get a majority, the two top vote getters will have a runoff in the Nov. 4 general election.
The form asks trial court judicial candidates about their education, career and civic involvement; areas where they are certified; and experience in trials, mediations, arbitrations or administrative proceedings. Other questions cover their pro bono and public service work and disciplinary history, if any, as a lawyer or judge. Candidates are also asked about their health and military service. Included in the final form is an essay question that asks candidates: “In 100 words or less, without discussing any particular issue which may come before you if you become a judge, explain why you believe you would be a good judge.”
As with other judicial candidate communications, voluntary self-disclosure statements are governed by Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which bars candidates from making statements that appear to commit them on legal issues likely to come before them in court. Before posting their statements with The Florida Bar, candidates had to attest to the accuracy of the information they provided. To be posted, statements had to be received by June 9.
In total, 108 out of 156 candidates responded to the voluntary questionnaire. In the 50 circuit court races, 81 candidates responded, for a 70 percent participation rate. In the 17 county court races, 27 candidates responded, for a 66 percent participation rate.
The forms are for candidates only seeking county and circuit judgeships. They are not for District Court of Appeal judges in merit retention elections. In August, the Bar will poll instate members regarding judges in merit retention elections. The results will be published in early September.
Additional information about judicial elections and the November merit retention elections can be found at www.floridabar.org/TheVotesinYourCourt, including The Guide for Florida Voters in both English and Spanish. More information about judicial elections in general can be found through The Vote's In Your Court page as well.
EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."