Mea Maxima Culpa:
Silence in the Chamber of Justice

By HEINZ DINTER, PhD



Our fascination oftentimes (perhaps not  frequently enough) turns our attention to the wondrous activity inside a beehive where tiny creatures go about their business in close proximity to each other, consumed in productivity, creating stunning results, while living in harmony. And not a single shot is fired, no envy leads to discontent, and no avarice-driven exploitation takes place. The ultimate kudos deserving for this society of busy bees must not be left out: no written laws are necessary calling for law enforcers and impartial adjudicators. And no mea culpa is ever called for.

"Our judges deserve more recognition of authority and must, in turn, render a greater commitment to the community." I wrote these words of respect for our judicial system 20 years ago and joined many friends, members of the legal community, and lay citizens in Tallahassee to express our thoughts to the seven justices of the Florida Supreme Court in response to the invitation to offer comments on the proposed amendments to The Code of Judicial Conduct. In support of my oral presentation before the justices, I filed my response with the Clerk. Today's Code of Judicial Conduct is confirmation of the progress in the administration of justice in Florida.

How often, however, do we hear “My most grievous fault” rise from the lips of one who has accepted the much-empowering responsibility to weigh right and wrong in pursuit of the truth?

Code of Judicial Conduct for the State of Florida

Preamble

Definitions

Canon 1. A Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary

Canon 2. A Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all of the Judge's Activities

Canon 3. A Judge Shall Perform the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently

Canon 4. A Judge Is Encouraged to Engage in Activities to Improve the Law, the Legal System, and the Administration of Justice

Canon 5. A Judge Shall Regulate Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict With Judicial Duties

Canon 6. Fiscal Matters of a Judge Shall be Conducted in a Manner That Does Not Give the Appearance of Influence or Impropriety; etc.

Canon 7. A Judge or Candidate for Judicial Office Shall Refrain From

Inappropriate Political Activity

Application

Effective Date of Compliance

The judicial code of conduct by which judges ply their trade, was formulated in the spirit of giving supreme strength to the code of conduct and thereby offer the maximum opportunity to one and all to respect the integrity of our judges who subscribe to a code of judicial conduct that is second to none.

Will not the strength envisioned for our judiciary to rule independently, fairly, and competently be in jeopardy if We the People waver in our desire to respect judges?

Judges are not simply members of a profession like bakers, bankers, and candlestick makers. Members of the judiciary have a unique place in our society — they pass judgment on the conduct of everyone.

The Code of Judicial Conduct demonstrates firmness and resoluteness to give true value to the respect and honor the judge gives to his office, and to also give true value to the respect and honor We the People have for our judges.

Let us remind ourselves, "The people are the masters of both Congress and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it." They are the words of Abraham Lincoln.

Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.

Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826)
American revolutionary leader and political philosopher, author of the Declaration of Independence, and 3rd United States president

The code of judicial conduct must not and does not tolerate denial of due process and prejudice against citizens.

We have a government of laws, not of men. Judges must adhere to the highest standards of conduct because they are members of the highest profession; they hold the destiny of our society in their hands and each citizen who is honored to wear the robe is a role model for all of us, especially our children.

It is for this reason that judges have that unique opportunity to cut crime significantly by simply being the role model all of us can look up to.

A code of judicial conduct that we can respect because it is firm and leaves no room for doubt will let us continue to help teach our children that there is no finer role model than a judge who is honest, fair, and compassionate.

And such non-quivering code of judicial conduct will let us emphasize to the children who are our future that a judge exemplifies this role model because judges live by the highest code of conduct possible, cemented with integrity, impartiality, and honesty.

It is for these reasons that we pray our judiciary will build a solid pedestal upon which stand the defenders of our laws which protect our democratic form of government.

This pedestal — upon which stand the role models for everyone — gives us pride, trust, and confidence when addressing each member of the judiciary with utmost sincerity and respect: Your Honor.

Why is this Court Shunning the Code of Judicial Conduct? Is he?

Life in the trenches, a far cry from the orderly life of our friends, the bees, does present a challenge made real by the words of Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, the temptation to stray from the idealistic code of conduct confirms the wisdom of our third president. Is it independence of the black robe or aloofness in the service of power that ultimately leads to headlines in the media?

A system of judicial governance that feasts on the generosity of lawyers, the officers of the court seeking rulings from the bench, when judges must face the power of the people in the voting booth, renders a weakness to the independence of jurists without which we slide into the abyss of totalitarianism.

This dependence is akin to fostering favoritism where the highest bidder prevails.

To add to this dilemma is the fate of the litigant who is not a lawyer trained in an accredited law school, does not hold membership in the society of lawyers known as The Bar, and who is proceeding pro se in the court of justice. Time and again, if one weighs one against the other, the denial that judges do not favor attorneys at law over non-lawyers is clearly disproven by the overwhelming evidence.

How then is it possible that testimony given under oath by a wealthy litigant, wielding economic power earned through hard work and diligence, but prostituted by unconscionable lust for more power derived through the accumulation of more wealth, in particular when gotten via means not condoned by the rules our society subscribes to, guided by the sole purpose of functioning orderly and with respect for the rights of others, represented by an attorney, is accepted without the supporting evidence that will confirm the attorney's client as a perjurer.

Indeed, our judges have the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.

  

I invite you to join us.

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