You have asked whether you may accept an award from a County Bar Association. The award is given annually, is a public service award, and consists solely of a certificate presented at a regularly scheduled luncheon of the Bar Association. You are a judge in a trial court department in the County whose Bar Association wishes to honor you. The cost of the luncheon is nominal and it is not a fund-raising event. You have been apprized that other judges have accepted the same award in the past.
The pertinent provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct are Canon 4 which provides that a judge may engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice; and Canon 5 which provides that a judge should regulate his extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with his judicial duties.
Canon 4(A) provides that a judge may "speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice."
Canon 5(B) provides:
"A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon his impartiality or interfere with the performance of his judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members, subject to the following limitations:
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(2) A judge should not solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, or use or permit the prestige of his office for that purpose, but he may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee of such an organization. He should not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising events, but he may attend such events."
This Committee has rendered an opinion indicating that acceptance of an award from a bar association or other civic association is permissible. See CJE Opinion No. 98-17, concerning a judge who was to be honored for contributions to the administration of justice, with a certificate of appreciation and a substantial monetary award by a foundation dedicated to the improvement of justice.
While you have not indicated in your letter the specific reasons that you are to be honored by the Bar Association (i.e., your "public service"), presumably the Bar Association wishes to recognize you for your performance of your judicial duties. Such recognition would, in the Committee's view, constitute an activity concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice within the meaning of Canon 4(A).
Even though you are the guest of honor at the luncheon, you have said that it is not a fund-raiser and thus your attendance is not proscribed by Canon 5(B).
Accordingly, the Committee is of the opinion that you may attend the Bar Association luncheon and accept its certificate honoring you for your public service.