The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org

Model Local Preference Poll For County and Circuit Judicial Candidates

On This Page

Judicial Poll Administration

Poll Coverage

Eligibility of Voters

Instructions to Voters

Biographies and Names

Procedures

Cost of Conducting Local Poll

Publication of Poll Results

Resolution of Disputes Concerning Conduct of Poll

Ethical Issues Applicable to Judicial Polls

Preface to Resolution

Proposed Letter to Members of Voluntary Bar Association

Legal Ability

Communication Ability

Written Decisions

Professional Conduct

Professional Activities



A sample model judicial poll PDF document opens in new window is available.

After the general election in 1972, the president of The Florida Bar appointed a special committee to study all aspects of judicial polls. On March 1, 1973, that committee, which was named the Judicial Poll Committee [later changed to the Judicial Evaluation Committee, submitted its initial report to the Board of Governors in which it recommended that the Board approve the concept of a model judicial poll to be uniformly administered in each judicial circuit of the state by The Florida Bar. The recommended poll would be a voluntary practice adopted at the option of voluntary bar associations as a means of informing the Bar, bench and public in a manner consistent with EC 8-6, Code of Professional Responsibility, [now Rule 4-8.2(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and its accompanying commentary]. The Board accepted the committee's recommendation, and its tenure was extended. The Model Judicial Poll Handbook was first published in 1974.

The revised model poll presented here was updated by the Judicial Evaluation Committee to include the information and review categories that are relevant to the local voluntary bars and was approved by the Board of Governors in 2001 as an official project of The Florida Bar. The Board authorized it to be made available to voluntary bar associations throughout the state. The Judicial Evaluation Committee, a standing committee of the Bar, will continue to function for the purpose of revising, improving, and updating the model poll procedures.

The forms and procedures are presented for use in local polls conducted by voluntary bar associations for the purpose of identifying the preferences of members of the Bar concerning incumbents and candidates for circuit and county court judicial offices.

Poll procedure and administration are described below which is entitled Judicial Poll Administration. The recommended administrative procedures have been designed to achieve the greatest uniformity statewide in the conduct of judicial polls while still allowing some variance in local polls conducted by voluntary bar associations under the auspices of The Florida Bar. These procedures, if followed, should aid in avoiding known pitfalls in the conduct of polls.

The local preference poll for trial judges includes form letters of instruction to voters and ballots to be used. A suitable caveat is provided in the letters of instruction and in the ballot regarding incumbents and candidates concerning whom the voter does not possess sufficient information to cast a vote.
Back to Top


Judicial Poll Administration

By endorsement and adoption of this Model Judicial Poll, it is the hope of The Florida Bar that every organized bar association in the state will appoint a standing Judicial Poll Committee. The committee should be carefully selected and charged with the objective of carrying out this poll as part of the responsibility of the Bar under Rule 4-8.2(a) and its accompanying commentary within the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The function of the local Judicial Poll Committee is:

* To proffer a resolution to the voluntary bar association authorizing the conduct of a local preference poll for trial court offices in accordance with The Florida Bar model judicial poll . The resolution for a local preference poll should be presented well in advance of the actual polling: e.g., the resolution for a poll of individuals appearing on the primary/general election ballot should be presented not less than 60 days prior to the close of qualification for candidates for the judicial office which is the subject of the poll. A copy of the resolution should be promptly transmitted to the judicial poll coordinator at The Florida Bar headquarters.

* To prepare the poll ballot and letter of instruction to voters in rough form for prompt transmittal to the judicial poll coordinator at The Florida Bar headquarters immediately upon determination of the final slate of individuals who will appear on the poll ballot and to coordinate with The Florida Bar headquarters regarding printing and mailing of ballots and instructions to voters. The judicial poll coordinator at The Florida Bar headquarters may be reached by telephone at (800) 342-8060 ext. 5670 or dmaffei@flabar.org. (see model poll ballots and letters of instruction to voters below).

* To maintain communications with the judicial poll coordinator at The Florida Bar headquarters during the mailing, return and tabulation of ballots in order to ensure proper execution of all phases of the poll procedure.

* To promptly disseminate the judicial poll results in accordance with the provisions of Resolution of Disputes Concerning Conduct of Poll below. The local Judicial Poll Committee should be prepared to assure that the conduct of the poll is consistent with the philosophy expressed in Ethics Issues Applicable to Judicial Polls below.
Back to Top


Poll Coverage

The model polls are designed for a voluntary bar association, under the auspices of The Florida Bar, to rate incumbent trial judges and/or candidates for judicial office using several alternative coverages. During the primary/general election period, local polls may rate either: (1) all incumbents whose terms are expiring, whether they face opposition on the ballot or not, plus all other candidates in contested judicial races; (2) only those incumbent judges who will appear on the upcoming ballot because their term is expiring and they face opposition, plus all other candidates in those contested judicial races; or (3) all incumbents, whether appearing on the upcoming ballot or not, plus all other candidates in contested judicial races. Coverage of local polls conducted at times other than the primary/general election may include either: (1) all incumbent trial court judges; or (2) those incumbent judges with expiring terms and who may stand for re-election in the next judicial elections. Localized polling which varies from these model coverages is allowable as an independent activity of a voluntary bar association, without state bar assistance or affiliation.
Back to Top


Eligibility of Voters

All members of The Florida Bar in good standing who have their principal office in the county or judicial circuit which is the subject of the poll shall be eligible to vote in local judicial polls for trial court offices. Voluntary bar associations may wish to conduct joint polls which could expand the geographical locations of those participating.

The Florida Bar headquarters will establish the names of attorneys whose principal offices are located in the county or judicial circuit which is the subject of the poll. The Florida Bar will mail ballots and instructions for local judicial polls to eligible voters provided that the local bar association submits the ballots and instruction forms to be used locally to Bar headquarters in Tallahassee within 10 days after determination of the final slate of individuals who will appear on the poll ballot. Note: The Judicial Evaluation Committee believes there is value in polling all practicing attorneys within the geographical limits of the poll; and this should be considered by voluntary bar associations in developing and implementing their poll procedures.
Back to Top


Instructions to Voters

It is essential that instructions concerning the need for, purpose of and conduct of the judicial poll be given to the voters in the form of a letter from the president of the voluntary bar association and the chairperson of the voluntary Judicial Poll Committee. Such a letter should be sent to the voters, together with their ballots. Model instructions to voters which incorporate the mentioned essentials appear below.

Separate forms of instructions are provided for voluntary bar association use in local preference polls for trial court incumbents and candidates. This has been done for two reasons:

(a) To achieve flexibility in the conduct of trial court polls at the local level;

(b) To place emphasis on the different purposes of the polls.
Back to Top


Biographies and Names

Biographies will not be supplied to the voters as a part of the judicial poll. The names will be those obtained from the Secretary of State or on the warrant of appointment. Information on contested trial offices should be obtained by the local committee from the Secretary of State as soon as qualification has closed. Names of the individuals to be rated shall be configured on the judicial poll ballot in a manner consistent with the format of the primary/general election ballot.
Back to Top


Procedures

The Florida Bar headquarters will mail the poll instructions and ballots to eligible voters, together with a ballot envelope, a separate return envelope on which will be printed the address of The Florida Bar head
quarters and a signature line which must be signed by the voter in order to validate the ballot. Return postage will be paid by the voter. Ballots which are not marked in accordance with ballot instructions will not be counted.

Poll results will be tabulated by a computer service under contract with The Florida Bar. The headquarters staff will deliver eligible ballot envelopes to the computer service for tabulation and after tabulation the ballots and envelopes will be sent to the voluntary bar association for retention. Except for polling during the primary/general election, all local preference poll ballots and envelopes shall be retained for 90 days after the date of certification of the poll results. For local preference polls during the primary/general election, the ballots and envelopes shall be retained for 90 days after the date of certification of the general election results. Judicial poll ballots and results shall be open for inspection by the public until destroyed.
Back to Top


Cost of Conducting Local Poll

The cost of conducting a local judicial poll will vary depending upon the number of eligible voters and depending upon whether The Florida Bar headquarters and the computer service are utilized for poll administration. The Judicial Evaluation Committee finds that the integrity of the poll will be ensured by central administration and by engaging an independent organization to tabulate poll results. This procedure is therefore encouraged.

Voluntary bar associations which determine to utilize the facilities of The Florida Bar will make arrangements for payment of the cost of printing instructions, ballots, envelopes, mailing and tabulation with the judicial poll coordinator's office in advance of the time that the printing is ordered.

The Florida Bar headquarters will respond to inquiries concerning the cost of conducting a judicial poll. It is recognized that costs may vary among voluntary bar associations. Please contact Doris Maffei at (800) 342-8060 ext. 5670 or dmaffei@flabar.org.
Back to Top


Publication of Poll Results

The results of local preference polls shall be made known to the incumbents, candidates and to the public through a press release which is supplied simultaneously to the media, the incumbents, the candidates and public who are present at the time of release.
Back to Top


Resolution of Disputes Concerning Conduct of Poll

(a) It is not intended that voluntary bar associations or Judicial Poll Committees be involved in the resolution of charges which involve violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Grievance matters should be referred to circuit grievance committees.

(b) In the event of a challenge to the conduct of a local trial court poll, it is recommended that the local Judicial Poll Committee investigate the charge, make findings, and submit its recommendations to the board of directors of the voluntary bar association, with a copy to the judicial poll coordinator, The Florida Bar.

(c) The Judicial Evaluation Committee may withhold use of the facilities of The Florida Bar for the conduct of any poll which is deemed to be in conflict with the procedure, subject to review of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar on request.
Back to Top


Ethical Issues Applicable to Judicial Polls

Rule 4-8.2(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and its accompanying commentary highlight the Bar's responsibility to appraise accurately the qualifications of candidates for judicial office, and to make such appraisal known to the public in a proper and dignified manner. The rule commentary provides in part:

Assessments by lawyers are relied on in evaluating the professional or personal fitness of persons being considered for election or appointment to judicial office and to public legal offices, such as attorney general, prosecuting attorney and public defender. Expressing honest and candid opinions on such matters contributes to improving the administration of justice. Conversely, false statements by a lawyer can unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

As individuals, attorneys have traditionally taken an active part in the political aspects of judicial selection and their right to do so within the bounds of ethical conduct and the political system should be preserved. Local Judicial Poll Committees are admonished, however, to exert every effort to avoid partiality or any semblance of political consideration. The basis for this admonition is found in the Rules of Professional Conduct which bear directly upon campaign practices. Rule 4-8.2(a) provides:

A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer, or public legal officer or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.

That provision is complemented by Rule 4-8.4(c) which states:

A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation...

Criticism of judicial polls and poll procedures is found in two cases resulting from local polls conducted prior to the 1972 general election.

In Faiks v. Broward County Bar Assn., Inc., et al, the plaintiff claimed that he was defamed by the poll finding that he was "unqualified" to hold judicial office. The Circuit Court for Broward County rendered a judgment on the pleadings in favor of the defendants and the District Court of Appeal, Fourth District, affirmed, 282 So.2d 647 (Fla. App. 1973).

The second action was Schwartz v. The Florida Bar and the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar (opinion not published, Fla. 1973). It was an original proceeding in the Supreme Court of Florida wherein the relator sought to investigate alleged violations by members of The Florida Bar of Disciplinary Rules 1-102(A)(4), 1-103(A) and 8-102(A) all now embodied in Rule 4-8 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The relator claimed that the Board refused to investigate the alleged violations which arose from the conduct of the Broward County Judicial Poll in 1972. As a result he claimed to have been denied substantial rights guaranteed to him by the Constitution of the United States and by the Constitution of Florida.

The underlying facts in Schwartz were that the relator was a candidate for judicial office who was found by a substantial number of poll voters to have been unqualified on the basis of their personal knowledge of his ability, integrity and judicial temperament. The relator complained that the majority of Broward County attorneys did not know him and, therefore, could not respond on the basis of personal knowledge to a questionnaire concerning his ability. It appears that the relator was a relatively recent resident and practitioner in Broward County who had practiced in St. Louis, Missouri.

It is not intended that local Judicial Poll Committees become involved in the resolution of unfair campaign practices. It is expected that properly conducted judicial polls, which meet the test of responsibility described in the applicable provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, will eliminate the criticism implicit in the two mentioned cases.
Back to Top


Preface to Resolution

(a) The following is a form of resolution which shall be used by the voluntary bar association for the purpose of authorizing a particular poll or all polls to be conducted by the voluntary bar association in the future.

(b) The resolution to conduct a local preference poll for trial court offices should be adopted prior to the initiation of each poll, or should be reaffirmed periodically. The resolution (or reaffirmation of the resolution) shall be mailed to the judicial poll coordinator at The Florida Bar headquarters immediately upon its adoption. It will be notice of your bar association's intention to conduct a poll and to use the facilities of The Florida Bar in doing so.

(c) It is suggested that, regardless of whether your voluntary bar association decides to conduct polls on a regular basis, a standing Judicial Poll Committee be created within your association.

(d) The resolution must be accompanied by the names and addresses of all incumbents and candidates comprising the final slate of individuals who will appear on the poll ballot.

Resolution of

______________________________ Bar Association

WHEREAS, the Rules of Professional Conduct provide that attorneys have a duty and responsibility to express their opinion as to whether individuals are qualified for selection to or retention in judicial office; and

WHEREAS, the (Name) ______________________________ Bar Association, on behalf of its members, desires to assist in maintaining in office judges having acceptably demonstrated and acknowledged judicial qualities; and

WHEREAS, it is the opinion of the (Name) __________________ _________________________ Bar Association that a useful public purpose is served by conducting polls for the evaluation of the composite preferences of the Bar concerning incumbent judges and candidates for judicial office.

NOW THEREFORE, it is resolved as follows:

1. That

(FOR POLLING DURING THE PRIMARY GENERAL ELECTION -- SELECT ONE)

a. all incumbent trial court judges standing for re-election in the 20__ judicial elections, whether opposed, and all candidates for the office of trial court judge

b. all incumbent trial court judges standing for re-election in the 20__ judicial elections, with opposition, and all candidates for the office of trial court judge

c. all incumbent trial court judges, whether standing for re-election in the 20__ judicial elections, and all candidates for the office of trial court judge

(FOR POLLING OTHER THAN DURING THE PRIMARY GENERAL

ELECTION -- SELECT ONE)

a. all incumbent trial court judges standing for re-election in the 20__ judicial elections

b. all incumbent trial court judges

in the (Name specific county, counties or judicial circuit jurisdiction) shall be rated according to the preferences of the individual members of The Florida Bar practicing therein (Name jurisdiction) after considering the judicial attributes of legal ability, communication ability, judicial conduct and judicial involvement and activities.

2. That the conduct of such judicial polls and the dissemination of results be accomplished in accordance with the recommended procedures of The Florida Bar and administered by The Florida Bar.

ADOPTED this ________ day of _______________, 20______

__________________________________

President

__________________________________

Secretary

Board of Directors

___________________________________

___________________________________
Back to Top


Proposed Letter to Members of Voluntary Bar Association
Pre-Election Preference Poll For Circuit/County Judges

To the members of the (NAME) ________________________ Bar Association:

Your voluntary bar association has a vital interest in attracting to and retaining on the bench judges of the highest possible qualifications, so that our courts may have the utmost confidence and respect of the public and the Bar. As lawyers, we have the duty and responsibility to express our opinion as to whether incumbent judicial officers, whether opposed or unopposed, and those candidates who oppose them are qualified for the offices they seek. If they have acceptably demonstrated and generally acknowledged judicial qualities, they should be favorably considered; if not, then it follows that they should not be so considered. It is understood that the lawyers voting must rely upon their own experience, knowledge and judgment, which constitutes a subjective standard of opinion rather than an objective one.

The duty and responsibility of the Bar in this regard is recognized in our own Rules of Professional Conduct. In exercising your vote, however, you should be mindful of the provisions of Rule 4-8.2 which enjoins members of the Bar from knowingly making false statements of fact concerning the qualifications of a candidate for judicial office and from knowingly making false accusations against a judicial officer.

With these purposes in mind, the board of directors requests that you give serious consideration to the qualifications of the individuals whose names appear on the poll ballot. Please rate each person on whom you have an opinion by a uniform standard. The poll is intended to reflect the composite opinion of the Bar concerning the judicial qualifications of each individual listed, considered on his or her own merits. You must disregard political considerations, and vote your own conscience and opinion. No effort should be made (or condoned) to exert influence upon members of the Bar as to how to vote on the qualifications of a person.

The enclosed preference ballot will be utilized as to those judges and candidates being considered by the general public for office. The attributes which should be considered in rating each individual before marking the preference ballot include:
Back to Top


Legal Ability
  • Knowledge of the law
  • Ability to listen to legal arguments
  • Ability to comprehend legal concepts
  • Ability to analytically reach decisions in unsettled areas of the law
  • Willingness to make decisions based on established law
Back to Top


Communication Ability
  • Ability to orally articulate questions and decisions

Written Decisions
  • Well reasoned
  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Address issues raised
Back to Top


Professional Conduct
  • Courtesy/Civility
  • patience/Temperament
  • Industry/Promptness
  • Integrity/Ethics
  • Willingness to ignore irrelevant considerations: race, sex, religion, politics, identity of lawyers or parties
  • Preparedness
Back to Top


Professional Activities
  • Participation in law-related professional activities (e.g. bar association and its functions, Inns of Court, Teen Court)

On the ballot itself, two groups of responses are provided. The first is designed to qualify your preference vote by indicating your personal knowledge of the capability of each individual. This, too, is necessarily a subjective decision and should be your first consideration. If you mark "No Opinion," your preference vote for that person will automatically be counted as "No Opinion." If your response indicates "Highly Approve, "Approve," or "Do Not Approve," then mark the appropriate preference response in the second group after you have given careful consideration to each of the specific attributes listed.

Please return your ballot after you have marked it in the envelopes which are enclosed for that purpose. Follow carefully instructions on the ballot materials concerning the return of the completed ballot and two transmittal envelopes. Completed ballots must be enclosed and sealed in the "Ballot Envelope," which is then placed in the preaddressed reply envelope. You must sign the reply envelope in order to validate the ballot. Please mark and return your ballot no later than THE DEADLINE INDICATED ON THE ENCLOSED POLL BALLOT. A ballot which is received after that date cannot be considered.

The results of this poll are intended to assist the Bar and the public in obtaining a qualified judiciary and in improving the quality of justice and the administration of our courts. Accordingly, statistics will be disseminated to the mass media of communication in the form of a press release without any editorial comment by the bar association.

Thank you for your cooperation in this important project.

Sincerely yours,

__________________________________

President

__________________________________

(Name of Bar Association)

__________________________________


(Chairperson, Judicial Poll Committee)
Back to Top

[Revised: 01-04-2013]