A Florida judge recently received an anonymous birthday card and $10,000 in cash. He didn’t know what to do with it and temporarily turned it over to the sheriff’s department. Should he keep it? Should he donate it to a charity?
The Florida Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee said that he should do either of those things, because it could be seen as soliciting a bribe, an attempted bribe, or could affect the integrity of judicial proceedings. The committee did offer three suggestions on what the judge could do with the money so as not to get himself into ethical difficulties.
First, he could disclaim any interest in the money, leaving the decision to the sheriff’s office. Second, he could request that the sheriff’s office turn the money over to the state’s unclaimed property division. A third option would be to ask the sheriff’s office to return the money to the litigant identified as the likely sender.
Of course, if he does that and the likely sender accepts the money back, then he is admitting that he is guilty of an attempted bribe. It seems that the best alternative for everyone involved is to request that the sheriff turn the money over to the state’s unclaimed property division, where undoubtedly it will be spent on some worthwhile state project.