The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 70-20

August 26, 1970
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.

2 and 27
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.