May a Judge Accept Campaign Contributions ?
In In re Rodriguez, 829 So. 2d 857 (Fla. 2002), the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) determined that Judge Rosa I. Rodriguez knowingly accepted a campaign contribution in the amount of $ 200,000, made for the purpose of influencing the results of the election.
The loan was made by Attorney Gabriel Bach, Judge Rodriguez's then boyfriend.
Judge Rodriguez filed campaign reports with the Division of Elections, stating that she personally loaned the $ 200,000 to her campaign.
Additionally, in reports submitted pursuant to section 106.075, Florida Statutes (1997), Judge Rodriguez represented that the loan was made by her brother Hugo Rodriguez and failed to disclose that $ 80,000 had been used to partially repay Bach.
In a Form 6 public disclosure, Judge Rodriguez again failed to disclose the $ 120,000 remaining debt to Bach.
Finally, after the campaign, Judge Rodriguez filed a letter with the Division of Elections, falsely stating that her previously submitted net worth statement failed to include a $ 120,000 balance on a loan from Hugo Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 829 So. 2d at 858-59.
The JQC concluded that Judge Rodriguez's conduct violated provisions of chapter 106, Florida Statutes, and Canons 1, 2, 5(D), 6(B), and 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The JQC recommended that Judge Rodriguez be suspended without pay for four months, receive a public reprimand, be fined $ 40,000, and pay the court reporter fees incurred by the JQC.
This Court accepted the recommended discipline, explaining that the $ 40,000 fine was designed to partially reimburse the State for salary paid to Judge Rodriguez while she was previously suspended with pay during a criminal investigation. Id. at 861.
In Rodriguez, the JQC determined that "Judge Rodriguez's actions were committed negligently, and not as a pervasive scheme to evade the elections laws." Id. at 861 n.2.