2012-34 (December 12, 2012)
Educational Activities; Gifts; Law School Activities
Rules 2.10, 3.1, 3.13 & 3.15
May a Judicial Official accept an offer to attend a law school training program at a reduced rate or free of charge?
Facts: A Judicial Official is an adjunct faculty member at a law school. The law school hosts a training program for which a fee is charged in the range of $1,100. In the past, the school has offered certain of its full-time faculty the opportunity to attend the program free of charge. The Judicial Official has been offered the opportunity to attend the program either at a reduced rate or possibly free of charge. The training program is relevant to the courses that the Judicial Official teaches at the law school as well as to the Judicial Official’s judicial duties. The law school has stated that it will be offering this opportunity to other adjunct faculty in the future on the same terms that it is offered to the Judicial Official.
Response: Rule 2.10 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states in relevant part that a judge “shall not make any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or to impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court….”
Rule 3.1 of the Code states that a judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, except as prohibited by law; however, a judge shall not participate in activities that (1) will interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, (2) lead to frequent disqualification, (3) appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality, (4) appear to a reasonable person to be coercive, or (5) make use of court premises, staff or resources except for incidental use or for activities that concern the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, or the use is permitted by law.
Subsection (a) of Rule 3.13 states that a judge shall not accept any gift if the acceptance is prohibited by law or would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality. Subsection (b) states, in relevant part, that, unless otherwise prohibited by law, a judge may accept, inter alia, “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 of the judge under Rule 2.11.” Subsection (c) states, in relevant part, that unless prohibited by law or subsection (a), a judge may accept, subject to applicable reporting under Rule 3.15, invitations to attend without charge “an event associated with the judge’s educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic activities permitted by this Code, if the same invitation is offered to nonjudges who are engaged in similar ways in the activity as is the judge.”
Rule 3.15 of the Code requires the reporting of gifts pursuant to Rule 3.13(c) valued at over $250 from the same source in a single calendar year, and reimbursement of expenses and waivers of fees permitted by Rule 3.14 in excess of $250 from a source within a calendar year.
Based upon the information provided, the Committee determined that the Judicial Official may accept the offer to attend the training program at a reduced rate or free of charge subject to the following conditions:
- (1) The Judicial Official’s attendance at the training program does not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. Rule 3.1.
- (2) The Judicial Official does not discuss during the training program any matter pending or impending in any court as specified in Rule 2.10 (a).
- (3) The Judicial Official does not conclude that attendance and acceptance of the free/reduced rate for the training program would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the Judicial Official’s independence, integrity or impartiality as specified in Rule 3.13 (a).
- (4) The Judicial Official reports the gift in accordance with Rule 3.15.