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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries


2014-07 (June 11, 2014)
Extrajudicial Activities; Attorneys; Disclosure/Disqualification
Rules 1.2 & 3.1
 
Issue:
May a Judicial Official participate in an adult co-ed summer soccer league organized by an attorney?
 
Additional Facts:
A Judicial Official would like to participate in an adult co-ed summer soccer league run by an attorney volunteer coordinator. The league is self-funded and charges participants a $135 registration fee which includes placement on a team, a per-player town field maintenance fee, a team shirt, referee fees, league liability insurance and an end of season pizza party. The league is open to everyone, but priority is given to town residents. It is not a lawyers’ league. Placement on a team is at the sole discretion of the team representatives and the League Coordinator. The Judicial Official will be paying for his/her own registration. The attorney who runs the league (and whose name appears as part of the league name) previously appeared before the Judicial Official when the Judicial Official was assigned to a different Judicial District, but does not appear before the Judicial Official in his/her current court location. All games are played in the evening.
 
Response:
Rule 1.2 states that a judge “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the … impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.  The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.” 
 
Rule 3.1 (3) prohibits participating in extrajudicial activities “that would appear to a reasonable persona to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality.” Comment (2) of Rule 3.1 encourages judges’ participation in both law related and other extrajudicial activities because it “helps integrate judges into their communities and furthers public understanding of and respect for courts and the judicial system.”
 
The Committee has addressed the issue of socializing with attorneys in several of its prior opinions: JE 2008-04 (JO may attend a sold-out baseball game with an attorney friend using tickets obtained by the attorney’s law firm); JE 2009-04 (JO may spend several days with close personal friends, who are lawyers, at the friends’ vacation home, provided that the JO continues to recuse himself in cases involving the friends, these recusals are infrequent and the judge has extended similar hospitality to the friends); JE 2010-08 (JO may attend a retirement party for a prosecutor, whom the JO knew prior to his/her appointment, provided it does not detract from the dignity of the office or interfere with the performance of judicial duties);JE 2012-01 (JO should not attend a “by invitation only” retirement dinner hosted and paid for by the former partners of the retiring lawyer, who regularly appear before the judge); and JE 2013-07 (JO may not participate in a small social outing organized by the spouse of a foreclosure firm attorney whose cases make up a large portion of the JO’s docket). The Committee also considered New York Opinion 12-177 (volunteer athletic coaching activities are ethically permissible as they do not appear to involve fund-raising or other prohibited activities and do not appear to pose a risk to the judge properly performing his/her judicial duties).
 
Based on the facts presented, including that the league is open to all adults, is self-funded, that participation as a player does not appear to involve the JO in any fund-raising activities, games are played outside of court hours, and that the attorney who runs the program does not presently appear before the Judicial Official, the Committee unanimously concluded that the Judicial Official’s participation in the soccer league is permissible. If, however, the attorney who organizes the league should appear before the Judicial Official in the future, the Judicial Official should disclose the relationship.
 

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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