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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2013-23 (June 18, 2013)
Event, Attendance/Appearance;
Educational Activities; Prestige of Judicial Office
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.4, 2.10, 3.1, 3.7, 3.14 & 3.15

 
Issue: May a Judicial Official speak on a law related topic at a TEDx conference for students, faculty and staff at a nonprofit educational institution?
 
Additional Facts: TED is an educational program owned by a non-profit foundation and devoted to a mission of “Ideas Worth Spreading.” According to the TED website, TED holds multiple yearly conferences involving a series of short talks from speakers on a broad range of topics. The TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations, and individuals the opportunity to plan and engage in their own “TED-like” conferences. Pursuant to TEDx rules, each speaker at a TEDx conference is limited to a maximum of 18 minutes; panel discussions, breakout sessions, question and answer sessions, and keynote speeches are prohibited. Talks cannot be used to sell products or promote businesses. The conference is recorded and may be made available for viewing online by others in the future. Speakers are required to sign a waiver authorizing their presentation to be included on the TED You Tube site. There will be no charge for those that attend the TEDx program at which the Judicial Official would speak. The cost of the program is being paid for by sponsors, including, but not limited to, the student association at the educational institution. The program is not a fund-raiser, and the Judicial Official will not be paid for speaking, but may be reimbursed for the cost of travel.

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 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 2.4(c) states that a judge shall not convey or permit others to convey the impression that any person or organization is in a position to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.

Rule 2.10(a) states 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 or make any nonpublic statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing. Rule 2.10(b) states that a judge shall not, in connection with cases or controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office.

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 (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 if the use is permitted by law.

Rule 3.7(a)(4) states that “[s]ubject to the requirements of Rule 3.1, a judge may participate in activities sponsored by organizations … concerned with the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, and those sponsored by or on behalf of educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organizations not conducted for profit,” including “appearing or speaking at, receiving an award or other recognition at, being featured on the program of, 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.”

Rule 3.14(a) states that if not prohibited by Rules 3.1 and 3.13(a) or other law, a judge may accept reimbursement of necessary and reasonable expenses for travel and waiver of registration fees or charges from sources other than the judge’s employing entity if the expenses or charges are associated with the judge’s participation in extra-judicial activities permitted by the Code. Rule 3.14(c) states that a judge who accepts reimbursement of expenses or waiver of fees or charges shall publicly report the acceptance as required by Rule 3.15.

Rule 3.15(a)(3) states that a judge shall publicly report the amount or value of reimbursement of expenses and waiver of fees or charges permitted by Rule 3.14(a), unless the amount of reimbursement or waiver, alone or in the aggregate from the same source in the same calendar year, does not exceed $250.

The Committee, having considered, inter alia, its opinion in JE 2009-23 (subject to various conditions a Judicial Official may organize and participate in a law related educational program on behalf of a general membership bar association, where sponsorships are solicited from law firms and businesses that were or likely would be engaged in litigation in the Connecticut courts) and formal opinion JE 2010-21 (subject to various conditions a Judicial Official may speak to a group of Department of Public Health employees who are engaged in the licensing, investigation and quality improvement of daycare facilities concerning the Judicial Official’s views about the problems of American children and their role in the courts), unanimously determined that the Judicial Official may participate subject to the following conditions:

  1. The Judicial Official prohibits the educational institution from using his or her name if soliciting sponsors for the event. Rule 1.3.
  2. The Judicial Official should not discuss pending or impending cases or make any statement that might reasonably be expected to impair the fairness of a pending or impending matter. Rule 2.10(a).
  3. The Judicial Official should be satisfied, after considering all the circumstances, that a reasonable person would not believe either that the Judicial Official had lent the prestige of office to advance the private interests of others or that any sponsors were in a special position to influence the Judicial Official. Rules 1.3, 2.4(c) and 3.1(3).
  4. The Judicial Official should retain the right to review and pre-approve the use of any biographical information or other material used to describe his or her participation in the program and to review any post-presentation publications. Rules 1.3 and 2.4(c).
  5. If the Judicial Official accepts reimbursement of travel expenses or waiver of fees, he or she reports that information if required to do so pursuant to Rules 3.14 and 3.15.

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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