Consistent with the holding of CEO 03-12, Judicial Circuit employees whose positions are listed in Section 112.3145(1)(b), Florida Statutes, are required to file the annual statement of financial interests because, as state agency employees, they are subject to Article II, Section 8, Florida Constitution, and Chapter 112, Part III, Florida Statutes, Therefore, the General Counsel for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, as well as those positions listed in Section 112.3145(1)(b)5, Florida Statutes, and those whose purchasing authority exceeds the statutory threshold of $15,000 are required to file the CE Form 1.
Are State Courts System employees of a Judicial Circuit whose positions are listed in Section 112.3145(1)(b), Florida Statutes, or who have purchasing authority in excess of $15,000, required to file a statement of financial interests?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
You advise that you seek this opinion on behalf of yourself, as General Counsel for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, as well as on behalf of the Circuit's Court Administrator, . . . , and the Director of Administrative Services, . . . . You question whether employees of the State Courts System, who in some cases have the same or similar-sounding titles and duties as those of a "specified state employee" listed in Section 112.3145(1)(b), Florida Statutes, are required to file the annual Statement of Financial Interests--CE Form 1. Of relevance to your inquiry are Subsections 112.3145(1)(b)1 and 5, which define a "specified state employee" to mean:
1. Public counsel created by chapter 350, an assistant state attorney, an assistant public defender, a full-time state employee who serves as counsel or assistant counsel to any state agency, a judge of compensation claims, an administrative law judge, or a hearing officer.
. . .
5. Business managers, purchasing agents having the power to make any purchase exceeding the threshold amount provided for in s. 287.017 for CATEGORY ONE, finance and accounting directors, personnel officers, or grants coordinators for any state agency.
In CEO 81-65, we opined that as an officer of the judicial branch, a Circuit Court General Master was not subject to the annual requirement of filing a statement of financial interests. The Supreme Court's opinion, In re the Florida Bar, 316 So.2d 45 (Fla. 1975), was the basis for our conclusion. There, the Supreme Court advised that the statutory financial disclosure law did not apply to officers of the judicial branch of government except insofar as they may be candidates for elective or retentive office, reasoning that the Legislature had no power under Article III, Section 18, Florida Constitution,  to adopt an ethical code of conduct that would govern the judiciary, whether it concerned financial disclosure or otherwise. The opinion acknowledged that the legislative authority was limited to executive and legislative officials, and to state employees, but it concluded that under the Court's inherent authority to prescribe codes of conduct for its own officers, judges would meet the same or higher standards of financial disclosure as officers of the executive or legislative branches.
The rationale of CEO 81-65 was subsequently followed in CEO 85-68, involving the Trustees of the Dade County Law Library, and CEO 02-18, involving Support Enforcement Hearing Officers for the 11th Judicial Circuit. Both cases involved judicial officers, not State employees. In CEO 03-12, we concluded that Trial Court Staff Attorneys also were not subject to financial disclosure, but not because of a "separation of powers" doctrine. Instead, our analysis concluded that although the Sixth Judicial Circuit was an "agency" for purposes of Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes,  the duties of Trial Court Staff Attorneys were not synonymous with those of a "specified state employee" listed in Section 112.3145(1)(b), Florida Statutes. While we concluded that a law clerk did not have equivalent duties to an assistant general counsel, we have never construed the financial disclosure obligation as not being applicable to State employees who happen to be employed by the judicial branch of government.
Your situation is distinguishable from CEO 03-12, in that your duties as General Counsel do include the giving of legal advice and the performance of duties which amounts to the practice of law. See CEO 75-183 and CEO 79-53. Similarly, purchasing agents with authority to make purchases in excess of the statutory threshold (presently $15,000), as well as other Judicial Circuit employees whose positions are listed in Section 112.3145(1)(b), Florida Statutes, are "specified state employees" subject to financial disclosure.
Accordingly, as "specified state employees" for the Ninth Judicial Circuit--a state agency for purposes of the Code of Ethics--the General Counsel, other listed employees, and those having the requisite purchasing authority, are required to file the annual CE Form 1.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on July 21, 2005 and RENDERED this 26th day of July, 2005.
The 1997-1998 Constitution Revision Commission moved the language found in Article III, Section 18, Florida Constitution, to a new subsection—Article II, Section 8(g), Florida Constitution, without changing the substance of the subsection, and this change was subsequently ratified during the 1998 General Election. Article II, Section 8(g) provides: "A code of ethics for all state employees and nonjudicial officers prohibiting conflict between public duty and private interests shall be prescribed by law."
Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes, defines "agency" to mean "any state, regional, county, local, or municipal government entity of this state, whether executive, judicial, or legislative; any department, division, bureau, commission, authority, or political subdivision of this state therein; or any public school, community college, or state university." [e.s.]