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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2013-09 (March 22, 2013)
New Judge; Transition to the Bench; Gifts
Rules 1.2, 2.4, 2.11 & 3.13

 
Issue: May a newly confirmed Judicial Official accept a gift from the Judicial Official’s former state office (which term includes persons representing that office) to be given at a dinner celebrating the Judicial Official’s judicial appointment? If acceptance of the gift is permissible, is there a duty to disclose or recuse when those who attended the dinner appear before the Judicial Official in the future? If there is such a duty, is it for a specified period of time?
 
Additional Facts: A newly confirmed Judicial Official’s former state office plans to host a dinner in honor of the Judicial Official’s appointment to the bench. A portion of the cost of the dinner will be used to purchase a gift that will consist of a framed piece of artwork.

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 2.4 prohibits a judge from permitting family, social, political, financial, or other interests or relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment and prohibits a judge from conveying or permitting others to convey the impression that any person is in a position to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.

Rule 2.11 requires disqualification in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

Rule 3.13 of the Code (Acceptance and Reporting of Gifts) states that:

    (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;…
Based upon the information provided, the Committee unanimously agreed that the proposed gift is part of “ordinary social hospitality” within the meaning of Rule 3.13. As a result, the Judicial Official may accept the gift 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.

In addition, when the state office appears before the Judicial Official, the Judicial Official should disclose for a reasonable period of time, which is not less than two years from the date of the Judicial Official’s commencement of service as a judge, that he or she was previously employed by the state office. Rules 1.2 & 2.4.

If a party requests that the Judicial Official recuse himself or herself, the Judicial Official, after considering the facts, law and argument of counsel, must exercise his or her discretion in accordance with Rules 1.2 and 2.11 in deciding whether to grant the motion.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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