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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2009-11 (March 20, 2009)
Event, attendance/appearance; Awards & Honors; Fundraiser; Advertising; Name, Use of; Canons 2 & 5

Issues: May a Judicial Official accept an award for excellence in mediation given by a nonprofit organization that receives referrals from courts and communities in the region of Connecticut where the Judicial Official sits? The award is to be presented during a ceremony at a dinner event. Also, if the Judicial Official were to accept the award, may the Judicial Official permit his or her name to be used in advertising the event?

Response: Based upon the facts presented, including that the Judicial Official does not impact or influence the mediation program selected by the parties, that the ticket pricing structure includes three different levels of patronage (Benefactor $250, Patron $100 and Friend $50), that information obtained regarding last year’s event suggests that sponsorship opportunities may be available to individuals and organizations, that the organization indicated to ticket purchasers that all but $20 of the ticket price could be considered an income tax-deductible contribution, and that the organization uses fundraising terminology in describing the event, the Committee unanimously determined that it is impermissible under Canon 5(b) for the Judicial Official to accept the award because the event appears to be a fundraiser, in addition to the stated purpose of the event as "designed to increase awareness of mediation for both the general public and legal professionals".

With respect to the issue raised regarding the use of the Judicial Official’s name in advertising, the Committee unanimously determined that, to avoid any implication that the Judicial Official, who would be the sole guest of honor, is lending the prestige of the judicial office to this particular organization, since it engages in mediating a substantial number of court-based cases in the area in which the Judicial Official is assigned, the Judicial Official should not allow the use of his or her name for purposes of advertising such an event. See Canon 2(b).

Committee on Judicial Ethics



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