2013-22 (May 20, 2013)
New Judge; Transition to the Bench; Gifts
Rules 1.2, 3.13 & 3.15
A recently appointed Judicial Official’s former office and colleagues held a party in honor of the Judicial Official’s appointment to the bench. The Judicial Official received a gift from an attorney attendee who had been opposing counsel in various cases prior to the Judicial Official’s appointment to the bench. The Judicial Official believes that the gift is a book. The attorney that provided the gift is likely to appear before the Judicial Official in the future. May the Judicial Official accept the gift?
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 of the Code (Acceptance and Reporting of Gifts) states in part that:
Based on the facts presented and that the Committee previously determined in JE 2013-09 and JE 2013-10 that gifts incident to a dinner in honor of a Judicial Official’s appointment to the bench could be accepted as part of ordinary social hospitality within the meaning of Rule 3.13 provided that the value of the gift was not so great that a reasonable person would believe that the gift would undermine the Judicial Official’s independence, integrity or impartiality and that the Judicial Official need not report the gift unless its value is outside the bounds of ordinary social hospitality based upon the relationship of the individuals and any historic gift giving between them, the Committee unanimously determined that the Judicial Official may accept the gift subject to the following conditions:
- A judge shall 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.
- Unless otherwise prohibited by law, or by subsection (a), a judge may accept the following without publicly reporting such acceptance:
- items with little intrinsic value, such as plaques, certificates, trophies, and greeting cards;
- 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 under Rule 2.11;
- ordinary social hospitality;…
- In accordance with Rule 3.13(a), the nature or value of the gift (whether a book or some other item) is not so great that a reasonable person would believe that the gift would undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality (in which event the judge may not accept the gift); and
- The value of the gift is consistent with the bounds of ordinary social hospitality based upon the relationship of the individuals and any historical gift giving between them, in which event the value of the gift need not be reported pursuant to Rule 3.13(b)(3) and Rule 3.15.