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Florida > The Florida Election Code > Nonpartisan Elections

§ 105.071 Candidates for judicial office; limitations on political activity.

Overview of Statute

This statute outlines what candidates for judicial office are not allowed to do with regard to political activity. Judicial candidates are not allowed to participate in partisan activities beyond being registered to vote as a member of a party and voting in that party’s primary. Further, judicial office candidates are not allowed to campaign for a particular party, publicly represent a party, endorse a candidate, make political speech, contribute to party funds, accept party contributions, solicit party contributions, accept/keep a place on a party committee, make a contribution to a person/group/organization for its endorsement, or agree to pay for all or part of an advertisement sponsored by a person/group/organization that endorses the judicial candidate. Candidates for judicial office who violate these provisions are liable for civil fines of up to $1,000.

Statute

A candidate for judicial office shall not:

(1) Participate in any partisan political party activities, except that such candidate may register to vote as a member of any political party and may vote in any party primary for candidates for nomination of the party in which she or he is registered to vote.
(2) Campaign as a member of any political party.
(3) Publicly represent or advertise herself or himself as a member of any political party.
(4) Endorse any candidate.
(5) Make political speeches other than in the candidate’s own behalf.
(6) Make contributions to political party funds.
(7) Accept contributions from any political party.
(8) Solicit contributions for any political party.
(9) Accept or retain a place on any political party committee.
(10) Make any contribution to any person, group, or organization for its endorsement to judicial office.
(11) Agree to pay all or any part of any advertisement sponsored by any person, group, or organization wherein the candidate may be endorsed for judicial office by any such person, group, or organization.

A candidate for judicial office or retention therein who violates the provisions of this section is liable for a civil fine of up to $1,000 to be determined by the Florida Elections Commission.

History:

s. 7, ch. 71-49; s. 2, ch. 72-310; s. 38, ch. 77-175; s. 633, ch. 95-147; s. 7, ch. 99-326.

Definition [Contribution]

(a) A gift, subscription, conveyance, deposit, loan, payment, or distribution of money or anything of value, including contributions in kind having an attributable monetary value in any form, made for the purpose of influencing the results of an election or making an electioneering communication.

(b) A transfer of funds between political committees, between electioneering communications organizations, or between any combination of these groups.

(c) The payment, by a person other than a candidate or political committee, of compensation for the personal services of another person which are rendered to a candidate or political committee without charge to the candidate or committee for such services.

(d) The transfer of funds by a campaign treasurer or deputy campaign treasurer between a primary depository and a separate interest-bearing account or certificate of deposit, and the term includes interest earned on such account or certificate.

Notwithstanding the foregoing meanings of “contribution,” the term may not be construed to include services, including, but not limited to, legal and accounting services, provided without compensation by individuals volunteering a portion or all of their time on behalf of a candidate or political committee or editorial endorsements. Fla. Stat. § 106.011(5).

Definition [Judicial Office]

Includes the office of:

(a) Justice of the Supreme Court.

(b) Judge of a district court of appeal.

(c) Judge of a circuit court.

(d) County court judge.

A judicial office is a nonpartisan office, and a candidate for election or retention thereto is prohibited from campaigning or qualifying for such an office based on party affiliation. Fla. Stat. § 105.011(2).

Definition [Person]

An individual or a corporation, association, firm, partnership, joint venture, joint stock company, club, organization, estate, trust, business trust, syndicate, or other combination of individuals having collective capacity. The term includes a political party, affiliated party committee, or political committee. Fla. Stat. § 106.011(14).

Definition [Election]

Any primary election, special primary election, special election, general election, or presidential preference primary election. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(12).

Definition [Candidate]

Any person to whom any one or more of the following applies:

(a) Any person who seeks to qualify for nomination or election by means of the petitioning process.
(b) Any person who seeks to qualify for election as a write-in candidate.
(c) Any person who receives contributions or makes expenditures, or gives his or her consent for any other person to receive contributions or make expenditures, with a view to bringing about his or her nomination or election to, or retention in, public office.
(d) Any person who appoints a treasurer and designates a primary depository.
(e) Any person who files qualification papers and subscribes to a candidate’s oath as required by law.
This definition does not include any candidate for a political party executive committee. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(6).

Cases

Florida Cases

Out-of-State Cases

Case State: florida

Case Name: In re Angel

Citation: 867 So.2d 379

Year: 2004

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/adb433b14ba4b7488b73b52a373947b8

Case Summary: In re Angel held that the judge's conduct of attending/having a family member attend partisan political rallies during his election campaign and of holding himself out as a member of a partisan political party violated the spirit and the letter of 105.071, and the court elected to use a public reprimand as a sanction.

Case State: florida

Case Name: In re Inquiry Concerning a Judge Re: Pratt

Citation: 508 So.2d 8

Year: 1987

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/9a3affc949fa07c6f4170a175398bc06?query=508%20S[...]

Case Summary: In re Inquiry Concerning a Judge re: Pratt held that the judge violated rules and statutory law by joining with two other judicial candidates in promoting and financing the mailing of sample ballots that looked a lot like the official sample ballot. The judicial sample ballots gave the impression that partisan parties had endorsed the judge's candidacy, which was against Florida law on nonpartisan elections. A public reprimand was appropriate.

Case State: florida

Case Name: In re Kay

Citation: 508 So.2d 329

Year: 1987

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/7b1d1559e85190c2c6f471b81c846b48

Case Summary: In re Kay had the same facts as In re Inquiry Concerning a Judge Re: Pratt, and the court determined that a public reprimand was also appropriate here, as the judge showed remorse and had no malice or deceptive intent.

Federal Cases

Case Name: Zeller v. The Florida Bar

Citation: 909 F.Supp. 1518

Federal District Court: Northern District of Florida

Year: 1995

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/6681e9a47ce4f7ee7863ae95ae98d722

Case Summary: Zeller v. The Florida Bar held that defendants were preliminarily enjoined from enforcing the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canon that prohibited candidates for judicial office from making campaign expenditures, since the harm to defendants in enjoining the limitations was outweighed by the more serious harm to plaintiffs and by the public interest in protecting political speech/expression.

Case Name: Graham v. Butterworth

Citation: 5 F.3d 496

Federal Circuit Court: 11th Circuit Court

Year: 1993

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/ae3b2490d9db38abed849703b5ace428

Case Summary: Graham v. Butterworth held that since the candidates' intended campaign conduct was not within the scope of 105.071, the state attorneys had no possible mechanism of enforcement, making the action moot.

Regulations & Guidance

Additional Resources

Further Reading

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Courts and Judges s 292, Nonpartisanship requirement

  • Lobbying, PACs, and Campaign Finance s 11:71, Overview

  • 11/15/2013 Florida Bar News, The 18, Amendment Would Allow Joint Campaigns in Some Merit Retention Elections

  • 3/15/2004 Florida Bar News, The 5, Judge Angel Reprimanded

  • 9/15/2001 Florida Bar News, The 21, Judges May Not Belong to Bars that Endorse Candidates

  • “Judicial Elections: Canon 7, Politics, and Free Speech” 72-AUG Fla. B.J. 22

  • FLE Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education materials 13-1, 13. Judicial Ethics.