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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2011-10 (April 27, 2011)
Extrajudicial Activities; Waiver of Dues;
Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.4, 3.1, 3.13, 3.14, and 3.15

Issue: A Judicial Official was selected to be a member of a national legal honorary society prior to his or her appointment as a Judicial Official. The society offers to waive the annual dues for all members who are Judicial Officials. May the Judicial Official accept the offer to have his or her dues waived?

Response: Additional facts include that the honorary society is highly selective in its membership, is open to practitioners in diverse areas of the law, and is not limited to those that represent a particular class of client (i.e. not limited to plaintiff or defense attorneys). Membership is generally offered as the result of nomination by an existing member and in-house research of potential candidates, followed by a vetting to determine the potential candidate’s qualifications. The purposes of the organization are to recognize highly qualified lawyers, provide a forum for scholarly articles of interest to the membership, professional development, promotion of excellence in advocacy and ethics, and excellence in the judiciary by taking positions on issues that impact the litigation process. Membership dues for Judicial Officials are under $75, while private attorneys pay significantly more. The Committee unanimously determined that membership in the organization did not violate Rules 1.2, 1.3, 2.4 or 3.1. With respect to the waiver of dues, the Committee unanimously determined that it was not a gift, benefit or other thing of value prohibited by Rule 3.13, but rather was a permitted waiver or partial waiver of fees or charges within the meaning of Rule 3.14(a) and, since the value did not exceed $250, did not have to be publicly reported provided the value of the dues waiver when combined with the value of any other gifts or waivers from that society during the calendar year do not exceed $250. See Rule 3.15(a)(3). Finally, the Committee noted that (1) if there was a sponsoring member for the Judicial Official to become a member of the society and that member appears before the Judicial Official, the Judicial Official should disclose the relationship for a reasonable period of time, but not less than one year from the date of the recommendation of the Judicial Official for membership in the society; and (2) the Judicial Official should regularly reexamine the activities of the society to determine if it is proper to continue his or her relationship with it. 

Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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