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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2014-10 (July 15, 2014)
Use of Office; Promoting Public Confidence; Fundraising
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 3.1 & 3.7
 
Issue:
May a Judicial Official lend his or her name to an annual writing competition sponsored by an ethnic bar association?
 
Additional Facts: The bar association is seeking to establish a permanent annual writing competition for college students, related to the ethnicity’s history and culture.  The winning submission(s) will receive a financial award.  The bar association wants to name the competition after the inquiring Judicial Official.  The association will attempt to raise funds for the award through letters of solicitation to potential donors.
 
Response: Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states that a “judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid 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 that 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 3.1 states that a judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, except as prohibited by law; however, a judge shall not participate in activities that will interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, lead to frequent disqualification or appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality. 
 
Rule 3.7 concerns participation in educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization and activities. Subject to the requirements in Rule 3.1, a judge is permitted to participate in various activities sponsored by or on behalf of such entities.  Subject to the requirements in Rule 3.1, subsection (a)(4) specifically authorizes judges “appearing or speaking at, receiving an award or other recognition at, and permitting his or her title to be used in connection with an event of such an organization or entity, but if the event serves a fund-raising purpose, the judge may participate only if the event concerns the law, the legal system or the administration of justice”.
 
Based upon the facts presented, as well as this Committee’s and New York’s prior decisions, the Committee unanimously determined that the event does not qualify as one that that concerns “the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.”  The Committee further determined that the Judicial Official  may permit the use of his or her name with respect to the writing competition subject to the following conditions: 
1. The Judicial Official does not participate in fund raising except as permitted in Rule 3.7(a)(2);
2. In accordance with Rule 1.3, the Judicial Official inform the bar association that it cannot use the Judicial Official’s name in connection with soliciting funding for the competition.  For example, the solicitation could state it is seeking funding for the annual writing competition, but it cannot state it is seeking funding for the annual Judge X writing competition; and
3. The Judicial Official should retain the right to review and pre-approve the use of any information or other material used to solicit contributions to fund the competition.
 
In reaching its opinion, the Committee considered its prior opinions in JE 2011-05 (for an activity to qualify as one that concerns “the law, the legal system or the administration of justice” it must be shown that there is “a direct nexus between [the activity] and how the court system meets its statutory and constitutional responsibilities – in other words, how the courts go about their business”), JE 2009-11 (a Judicial Official, who was to be the sole guest of honor at a fund raiser by a nonprofit organization, should not allow the use of his or her name for purposes of advertising the event), JE 2010-30 (a Judicial Official may be honored at an event hosted by a law related organization for an event that concerns the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, and featured in publicity used to solicit sponsors to underwrite a portion of the program expenses; however, special care must be taken to ensure that the Judicial Official’s name was not used to encourage law firm participation and that no appearance is created that any of the donors were in a special position to influence the Judicial Official), JE 2010-31 (a Judicial Official may not lend his or her name to a campaign to solicit existing members of a law related organization to provide additional funds to become sustaining members of the organization), JE 2010-32 (a Judicial Official may accept an honorary degree from a college in connection with a speaking appearance at the college, subject to various conditions including that the Judicial Official inform the college that it should not promote or advertise the awarding of the honorary degree for the purposes of any fundraising activities), and New York Advisory Opinion 12-153 (sitting judges may not permit a bar association to establish law school scholarships in their names where solicitors would seek contributions for a special fund in the name of a retired judge and advise potential contributors that the purpose of the special fund was to establish law school scholarships named for the inquiring judges and a particular attorney).

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 

 

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