08:14, July 11 46 0 abajournal.com

2017-07-11 08:14:05
Judge who got $10K anonymous cash gift seeks guidance on what to do with the money

A Florida judge who received an anonymous birthday card containing $10,000 in cash is discouraged from directing the money to a charitable organization or otherwise disposing of the money, according to an ethics opinion.

The judge turned the money over to the sheriff’s office and sought guidance on what the judicial canons required the judge to do with the cash, according to the June 24 opinion by the Florida Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. The Legal Profession Blog posted the opinion.

The sheriff’s office determined that the money was almost certainly sent by a person with a case pending before the judge.

The canons require judges to report gifts to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but they do not address gifts that are returned or disposed of in some other manner, the ethics opinion said. The fact that the gift was from a litigant “suggests an attempt at bribery,” according to the opinion.

The committee said that any effort by the judge to direct the way the gift is disposed “is discouraged” because they would call into question the integrity of the prior court proceedings.

“Additionally, if the inquiring judge were to direct that the money be given to a particular charitable organization or other charitable groups such a decision could be perceived as the judge using the judicial office to solicit funds for a particular group” in violation of another judicial cannon, the opinion said.

The committee offered three suggestions on how the judge could dispose of the money:

• Disclaim any interest in the money, leaving a decision with the sheriff’s office.

• Request that the sheriff’s office turn the money over to the state’s unclaimed property division.

• Ask the sheriff’s office to return the money to the litigant identified as the likely sender.