SBM - State Bar of Michigan


July 9, 1980


    Judges and lawyers may exchange ordinary social hospitality.

    References: DR 7-110(A); Canon 4C(4)(b).


Inquire has been made as to whether it is improper for a lawyer to extend "ordinary social hospitality" to a judge before whom the lawyer currently has no cases. Specifically, if it is ethical for a lawyer to purchase two or three restaurant meals for the judge and his or her spouse, over a period of one year.

DR 7-110(A) states:

    "(A) A lawyer shall not give or lend anything of value to a judge, official, or employee of a tribunal." Emphasis added.

The words "anything of value" would not prohibit a lawyer from purchasing restaurant meals for a judge, or otherwise engaging in reciprocal social hospitality, provided the occasions are not too numerous, or so ostentatious, or to create an impression the lawyer is attempting to gain from a judge, special personal consideration or favor in matters pending or likely to be submitted to the judge for consideration.

The wording of Canon 5C(4)(b) supports this conclusion and provides in part:

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

      ". . .

      "(b) A judge or member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household may accept ordinary social hospitality . . . ." Emphasis added.

If the judge were allowed to accept ordinary social hospitality from a lawyer, it would be logically consistent to permit the lawyer to extend ordinary social hospitality to the judge.

It does not seem necessary to the proper performance of judicial duty that a judge live as a recluse isolated from customary social relationships.