2013-10 (March 22, 2013)
New Judge; Transition to the Bench; Gifts
Rules 1.2 & 3.13
A newly appointed Judicial Official’s family is planning a dinner/gathering of family and church members in honor of the Judicial Official’s appointment to the bench. There will be no charge for attending the event. The church and family members have been included in the Judicial Official’s life events for over 25 years. Does the invitation need to state “no gifts” or may the Judicial Official accept gifts from those who attend?
Response: Rule 1.2 requires a judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
Rule 3.13 of the Code (Acceptance and Reporting of Gifts) states that:
Based on the facts presented, including that the dinner/gathering is being hosted by family and close church friends who have celebrated Judicial Official’s life events for over 25 years, the Committee unanimously determined that the Judicial Official does not need to state “no gifts” on the invitations. The Judicial Official may accept gifts, unless the value of the gift is so great that a reasonable person would believe that the gift would undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality (in which event the judge may not accept the gift) and need not report it unless it is outside the bounds of ordinary hospitality based upon the relationship of the individuals and any historical gift giving between them. Rule 3.13(b)(2)&(3).
(a) A judge may not accept any gifts, loans, bequests, benefits, or other things of value, if acceptance is prohibited by law or would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.
(b) Unless otherwise prohibited by law, or by subsection (a), a judge may accept the following without publicly reporting such acceptance:
(1) items with little intrinsic value, such as plaques, certificates, trophies, and greeting cards;
(2) gifts, loans, bequests, benefits, or other things of value from friends, relatives, or other persons, including lawyers, whose appearance or interest in a proceeding pending or impending before the judge would in any event require disqualification under Rule 2.11;
(3) ordinary social hospitality;…