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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries


2014-06 (Emergency Staff Opinion issued May 29, 2014)
Gifts; Rules 1.2, 1.3 & 3.13

Issue: May a Judicial Official accept a gift from a bank to thank the Judicial Official for being a new banking customer?

Additional Facts: A Judicial Official recently transferred his/her IRA (valued at $100,000) from one Connecticut bank to another local bank in Connecticut. After the transaction was completed, the Judicial Official’s financial advisor, an employee of the new bank, called the Judicial Official to offer, without charge, the Judicial Official (and Judicial’ Official’s spouse), two box seat tickets to see “Cirque de Soleil”. According to the show’s website, tickets to the show ordinarily range in cost from approximately $44.00-$114.00. Although the financial advisor was involved in the transaction, the decision to move the IRA to the new bank originated from the Judicial Official.  Both the financial advisor and the bank are aware of the Judicial Official’s position. The stated reason for the gift was to thank the Judicial Official for being a new customer of the bank. The Judicial Official believes that not all customers of the local bank are given this offer.  

Response: Rule 1.2 states that a judge “should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the … impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.  The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.” 

Rule 1.3 states “A judge shall not use or attempt to use the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others or allow others to do so.” 
Rule 3.13 of the Code states:

(a) A judge shall 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;… (4) commercial or financial opportunities and benefits, including special pricing and discounts, and loans from lending institutions in their regular course of business, if the same opportunities and benefits or loans are made available on the same terms to similarly situated persons who are not judges;…

In JE 2008-04, this Committee considered whether a JO may attend a sold-out baseball game with an attorney friend using tickets obtained by the attorney’s law firm. Based upon the facts presented, including that the attorney friend does not appear before the JO, that other members of the firm will not be present at the game, and that there are not frequent transactions between the firm and the JO, this Committee agreed that the JO could attend the game if the JO purchased the ticket at the higher of the face-value or what the firm paid for the ticket.

After consulting with several members of the Committee, staff counsel advised the Judicial Official, based on the facts presented and this Committee’s prior opinion in JE 2008-04, that the Judicial Official may accept the tickets and attend the show, subject to the following conditions:

1)The Judicial Official should confirm that the free tickets are being offered to all new customers under the same terms applicable to the Judicial Official;

2) If the value of the gift exceeds $250, the Judicial Official must publicly report it pursuant to Rule 3.15; and

3) In the event the bank appears before the Judicial Official, the Judicial Official should recuse himself/herself.

If condition (1) cannot be confirmed, the Judicial Official may still accept the tickets and attend the show by paying face value.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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