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Judge Jogging with Juvenile Offenders Would Be Unethical, Says Fla. Supreme Court

Posted Nov 24, 2010 12:46 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Even if it seems like a nice idea, juvenile court judges should not go jogging with adolescent offenders, says the Florida Supreme Court, in a recent ethics advisory opinion.

The question was submitted by a Florida jurist who wanted to create a running program for juvenile offenders. The plan was that offenders would perform community service hours by jogging with the judge, at a school near this courthouse. According to the Legal Profession Blog, the inquiry made clear that the jogging program would be optional, law enforcement would be present and the judge wouldn't talk about the juveniles' cases with them. The judge, according to the blog post, thought the jogging program would "curb their delinquency; improve their health; give them a more positive self-image; and provide them with positive role models."

Regardless, in a Nov. 18 opinion the Florida Supreme Court found that such a program could cause a judge's impartially to be questioned in a variety of ways. A juvenile who didn't want to go for a jog with the judge might think he or she would receive less favorable treatment from the court, the opinion states. Reversely, the state might perceive that the judge would treat participants more favorably.

"As the inquiring judge also recognizes, although the judge would not initiate conversation with the juveniles about their cases, the program creates an opportunity for juveniles to initiate conversation with the judge. Thus, the judge would be creating a situation permitting ex parte communications," the opinion states.

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