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Ethics Opinion

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CI-549

July 28, 1980

SYLLABUS

    It is not improper for a judge and the judge's spouse to attend an all-expense paid four day semi-annual union meeting provided the judge's activities while in attendance do not detract from the dignity of the judicial office or interfere with the performance of judicial duties, and the union and/or its members are not persons whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge.

    References: MCJC 5C(4)(c).

TEXT

A recorder's court judge asks whether it is ethically proper to accept an invitation for the judge and the judge's spouse to attend an all-expense paid summer annual meeting of a local union. The purpose of the meeting is a combination business and social gathering. The judge has not been asked to lecture on the legal system of the administration of justice and that, in all likelihood, the judge was invited due to the judge's personal acquaintance with the president of the district council. The union is not a party whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge's court. The judge is not currently presiding over any cases involving the union's members, although it is possible that a union member may come before the judge in the future.

MCJC 5 permits judges to engage in social and recreational activities which do not interfere with the performance of judicial duties. In CI-533 it was concluded that a judge may accept ordinary social hospitality from a lawyer provided the occasions are not too numerous or so ostentatious as to create the impression the lawyer is attempting to gain from the judge special personal consideration or favor in matters pending or likely to be submitted to the judge for consideration. The same reasoning would apply to hospitality extended to a judge by a nonlawyer union group. MCJC 5C(4)(c) states:

    "Neither a judge nor a family member residing in the judge's household should accept a gift, bequest, favor, or loan from anyone except as follows:

      ". . .

      "(c) A judge or a family member residing in the judge's household may accept any other gift, bequest, favor, or loan only if the donor is not a party or other person whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge, and, if its value exceeds $100, the judge reports it in the same manner as compensation is reported in Canon 6C.

The underlying rationales of Canons 5 and 6 are that the source and value of a gift or favor extended to a judge should not create the appearance of influencing the judge in the exercise of his judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety.

Although the judge may in the future preside in matters involving individual union members, the member's union affiliation would not necessarily be germane to any such proceeding. Subject to the financial reporting requirements of MCJC 6, the inquiring judge and spouse may attend the meeting as guests of the union, provided the judge's activities while in attendance do not detract from the dignity of the judicial office or interfere with the performance of judicial duties, and the union and/or its members are not persons whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge.

 
     

 

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