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State of Florida

Judicial Campaigns and Elections: Florida

Campaign Conduct

According to Canon 7 of Florida's code of judicial conduct, judicial candidates shall not:
  • With respect to parties or classes of parties, cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office.
  • Knowingly misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact concerning themselves or their opponents.
  • While a proceeding is pending or impending in any court, make any public comment that might reasonably be expected to affect its outcome or impair its fairness or make any nonpublic comment that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.
  • Personally solicit campaign contributions or solicit attorneys for publicly stated support. However, candidates may establish campaign committees to secure and manage campaign funds and obtain public statements of support.

Judicial candidates standing for retention may engage in only limited campaign activities until they certify that their candidacy has drawn active opposition.

In 1990, a federal district court declared unconstitutional a provision of the code of judicial conduct that barred judicial candidates from announcing their views on disputed legal or political issues. The court nevertheless acknowledged the state's interest in preserving the integrity and objectivity of its judiciary. American Civil Liberties Union v. The Florida Bar, 744 F.Supp. 1094 (N.D. Fla. 1990). In 1995, another code provision was challenged by the ACLU and struck down by a federal court. The impugned rule had prohibited judicial candidates from expending funds for their campaigns or establishing committees to solicit contributions and support earlier than one year before the general election. Zeller v. The Florida Bar and the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, 909 F.Supp. 1518 (N.D. Fla. 1995).

Under Florida law, judicial candidates shall not campaign as a member of a political party or accept contributions from a political party. In 1978, a federal district court struck down as a violation of the First Amendment a statute that barred political parties from supporting, endorsing, or assisting judicial candidates. Concerned Democrats of Florida v. Reno, 458 F.Supp. 60 (S.D. Fla. 1978).