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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2013-27 (July 18, 2013)
Gifts; Rules 1.2 & 3.13
 
Issue:
May a Judicial Official who is an adjunct faculty member at a law school accept a gift from an attorney, who is also an adjunct, consisting of a book written by the attorney?
 
Additional Facts: The author of the book is a practicing attorney who has never appeared and is not likely to appear before the inquiring Judicial Official.  Although the book is relevant to the subject-matter of the course that the Judicial Official teaches, it is not a course text and is not being provided for use in the Judicial Official’s judicial duties.  The book is being provided by the attorney, not the publisher.
 
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 concerns the acceptance and reporting of gifts, loans, bequests and other things of value.  Subsection (a) states that “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.”  Subsection (b) sets forth items that may be accepted without being publicly reported while subsection (c) sets forth when items that are accepted must be reported.
 
Comment (1) to Rule 3.13 states as follows:

Whenever a judge accepts a gift or other thing of value without paying fair market value, there is a risk that the benefit might be viewed as intended to influence the judge’s decision in a case.  Rule 3.13 imposes restrictions on the acceptance of such benefits, according to the magnitude of the risk.  Subsection (b) identifies circumstances in which the risk that the acceptance would appear to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality is low and explicitly provides that such items need not be publicly reported.  As the value of the benefit or the likelihood that the source of the benefit will appear before the judge increases, the judge is either prohibited under subsection (a) from accepting the gift, or required under subsection (c) to publicly report it.
 
Based upon the information provided, including that the donor is not a person who has ever appeared or is likely to appear before the Judicial Official, the Committee members in attendance unanimously determined that the acceptance of the gift was not prohibited by law and would not appear to a reasonable person to undermine the Judicial Official’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.  The Committee members further determined that in accordance with Rule 3.13(a) the Judicial Official may accept the book.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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