2012-18 (July 12, 2012)
Event, attendance/appearance; Activity by an Organization Concerned with the Law; Gifts;
Rules 1.2, 3.1, 3.7 &3.13
Issue: May a Judicial Official attend a luncheon meeting and accept a meal paid for by a Judicial Branch
non-profit contractor who is participating in the meeting?
Additional Facts: The Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services Division (CSSD) organizes and conducts luncheon meetings at
various courthouses at which it provides updates regarding various CSSD services. In addition, local nonprofit contractors for CSSD which provide
services for court clients are present and provide updates on their services. Those invited to the meetings include CSSD personnel, prosecutors,
public defenders and judges. CSSD’s contractors pay for the lunch (sandwich, etc.) that is offered to all participants. CSSD has estimated the
cost of the lunch at approximately ten dollars.
While the Judicial Official does not ordinarily direct that a party attend a program offered by a specific CSSD contractor, the Judicial Official
has the authority to do so. In addition, if the Judicial Official directs that a party be evaluated and receive services in accordance with the
evaluation, depending upon the issue for which the client is evaluated, there may only be a single contractor that services clients in that judicial
district. The contractor’s employees may be required to appear in court to testify with respect to services provided to a client.
Response: The Committee unanimously determined that attendance at the meeting and acceptance of a lunch paid for by nonprofit
contractors would not violate Rule 1.2 because it would not create in reasonable minds a perception that the Judicial Official had violated the
Code of Judicial Conduct or engaged in other conduct that reflected adversely on the Judicial Official’s honesty, impartiality, temperament or
fitness to serve as a Judicial Official. The Committee further concluded that attendance at the event and acceptance of the lunch was consistent
with Rules 3.1 (extrajudicial activities), 3.7 (participation in education, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organizations and activities),
and 3.13(c)(2)(A), which specifically permits a Judicial Official to “attend without charge … an event associated with a bar related function or
other activity relating to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice,” provided that the activity is not otherwise prohibited
by law and that acceptance of any benefit in connection with the event would not appear to a reasonable person to undermine the Judicial Official’s
independence, integrity or impartiality. Based upon the foregoing, the Committee concluded that the Judicial Official may attend the luncheon
meeting and accept the lunch that is paid for by nonprofit contractors subject to the following conditions: (1) the Judicial Official does not
discuss any pending or impending cases in any court, (2) the Judicial Official does not personally believe that attendance and acceptance of the
lunch would create an appearance of impropriety, and (3) if required to do so pursuant to Rule 3.15 , the Judicial Official reports the gift.
1The contractors are selected pursuant to an open and competitive process administered by the Materials Management Unit of the Judicial Branch.
The Judicial Official is not involved in determining which bidders are awarded a contract.
2Rule 3.15 requires a Judicial Official to publicly report the amount or value of, inter alia, “gifts and other things of value as permitted by
Rule 3.13(c), unless the value of such items, alone or in the aggregate with other items received from the same source in the same calendar
year, does not exceed $250”.