Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes, does not apply to Trial Court Staff Attorneys employed by a Judicial Circuit Court. A Trial Court Staff Attorney is not a "specified state employee" who provides legal advice to a state agency. Instead, a Trial Court Staff Attorney acts as a law clerk for the circuit judge to whom the attorney is assigned.
Are you, Trial Court Staff Attorneys for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, required to file statements of financial interests pursuant to Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes?
Your question is answered in the negative.
In your letters of inquiry, we are advised that you are employed as Trial Court Staff Attorneys with the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida. In those positions, you essentially work as law clerks to the circuit judges, reviewing and researching motions, petitions, and trial issues involving substantive or procedural questions, and you recommend a course of action to the judge to whom you are assigned. You question whether you are a "specified state employee" who is required to file the CE Form 1, Statement of Financial Interests.
Section 112.3145(1)(b)1, Florida Statutes, defines "specified state employee" to mean:
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, the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims, a judge of compensation claims, an administrative law judge, or a hearing officer.
In a previous advisory opinion, CEO 75-183, we advised that the terms "counsel" and "assistant counsel" should be read as including legal counsel to a state agency. In light of that interpretation, we advised that persons holding positions which were classified as attorneys within the executive branch of state government were "specified state employees" as their positions required the giving of legal advice or performance of other duties which amounted to the practice of law. In CEO 79-53, we opined that the staff attorney for a legislative committee was a "specified state employee" because he rendered legal advice to the Committee on Regulated Industries and Licensing, an "agency" as defined in Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes.
In your situation, while the Sixth Judicial Circuit is an "agency" for purposes of Section 112.312(2), Florida Statutes, your duties do not include the giving of legal advice or the performance of duties which amount to the practice of law. Instead, your duties to an individual judge are synonymous with those of a law clerk. For these reasons, we conclude that a Trial Court Staff Attorney employed by a Judicial Circuit is not a "specified state employee" subject to the requirement of filing financial disclosure.
Your question is answered accordingly.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on September 4, 2003 and RENDERED this 9th day of September, 2003.
Richard L. Spears, Chairman