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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2013-33 (July 18, 2013)
Bar Association Functions; Event, attendance/appearance; Extrajudicial Activities
Rules 1.2, 3.1 & 3.7
 
Issue: 
May a Judicial Official speak on a panel at an enrichment event for the Women’s Caucus (“caucus”) of the CT Trial Lawyers Association?
 
Additional Facts:  The event will be an informal dinner, with an estimated attendance of 40 – 50 people.  The theme of the event is the offering of advice, observations and life lessons from judges’ perspectives, as well as discussion of work-life balance issues and career path choices.  The Judicial Official is expected to speak for approximately 10 minutes (two other judges have been or will be asked to join the panel) and then answer questions in an “informal, conversational” setting.  According to the invitation, the caucus is committed to working towards the advancement and promotion of women in the legal profession and the event contributes to that goal.  Entrance fees are $65 for members and $75 for non-members. The Judicial Official’s dinner would be paid for by the caucus. The event is not a fundraiser and is open to anyone wishing to attend. Members of the caucus may appear in court in the future before the Judicial Official. However, the Judicial Official does not know at present who belongs to the caucus.
 
Discussion:  Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides 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 impropriety and 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 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. 
 
Similarly, Rule 3.7(a) provides that a judge may participate in activities sponsored by organizations or governmental entities concerned with the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and enumerates several permitted activities, such as speaking at an event. 
 
Based on the facts presented, and the conclusion of the committee that the caucus is a “specialty bar association” that involves a particular group of lawyers, i.e., women (see D.C. Advisory Committee Opinion 4), but does not appear to limit membership to women and that attendance at the dinner is not restricted, the Committee unanimously determined that the Judicial Official may speak at the dinner for the purpose of offering advice, observations and life lessons from the perspective of a judge, as well as  discussing work-life balance issues and career path choices, provided that the organization is not currently involved in litigation before the court of which the Judicial Official is a member or that it publicly promotes highly controversial positions on issues pending before the court or likely to come before the court (see California Advisory Opinion 47, 1997). In rendering this opinion, the Committee also considered its prior opinions in JE 2012-10 (judge may join local ethnic bar association, with conditions) and JE 2011-09 (judge should not serve as a delegate at the annual meeting of an organization that limits its membership to a certain sex, age, group, or to individuals who subscribe to a particular religious belief).
 

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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