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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2011-23 (October 7, 2011)
Extrajudicial Activities; Waiver of Dues;
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.4, 3.1, 3.13, 3.14, 3.15
 
Issue: Prior to appointment to the bench, a Judicial Official was certified as a trial specialist by an approved certifying agency. The certifying agency has a “Judicial Fellow” category for attorneys who are certified and thereafter become full time judges. The certifying agency offers to waive the annual dues for Judicial Officials provided that they sign an annual statement that they meet the requirements pertaining to a Judicial Fellow. May the Judicial Official accept the offer to have his or her dues waived?
 
Response: Additional facts include that the certifying agency is a non-profit entity devoted to improving the quality of trial advocacy and aiding clients to select experienced legal counsel. Certification requires, inter alia, proof that the attorney is in good standing and has substantial trial experience, passing a written test and providing writing samples. A person must be recertified every 5 years and has to provide references for initial certification as well as recertification. Certification is open to practitioners in various areas of the law and includes those who represent plaintiffs as well as those that represent defendants. In addition to an application fee and a testing fee, there is an annual fee in excess of $250 for maintaining certification. The Committee unanimously determined that consistent with this Committee’s opinion in JE 2011-10, membership in the organization did not violate Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.4 or 3.1 and waiver of dues is not a gift, benefit or other thing of value prohibited by Rule 3.13, but rather is a permitted waiver or partial waiver of fees or charges within the meaning of Rule 3.14(a). As a result, the Judicial Official may accept the offer subject to the following conditions: (1) since the value exceeds $250, the Judicial Official must publicly report the fee waiver in accordance with Rule 3.15(a)(3); (2) if any of the references that the Judicial Official used when he or she last applied for certification or recertification appear before the Judicial Official, the Judicial Official should disclose the relationship for a reasonable period of time, but not less than one year from the date the Judicial Official was last certified or recertified; and (3) the Judicial Official should regularly reexamine the activities of the organization to determine if it is proper to continue his or her relationship with it.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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