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§ 5-303.13. Acceptance and reporting of gifts, loans, bequests, benefits, or other things of value.

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   (A) A judge shall not accept any gifts, loans, bequests, benefits, or other things of value, if acceptance is prohibited by law* or would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence,* integrity,* or impartiality.*

   (B) Unless otherwise prohibited by law, or by paragraph (A), a judge may accept the following without publicly reporting such acceptance:

   (1) items with little intrinsic value, such as plaques, certificates, trophies, and greeting cards;

   (2) gifts, loans, bequests, benefits, or other things of value from a member of the judge’s family*;

   (3) ordinary social hospitality;

   (4) commercial or financial opportunities and benefits, including special pricing and discounts, and loans from lending institutions in their regular course of business, if the same opportunities and benefits or loans are made available on the same terms to similarly situated persons who are not judges;

   (5) rewards and prizes given to competitors or participants in random drawings, contests, or other events that are open to persons who are not judges;

   (6) scholarships, fellowships, and similar benefits or awards, if they are available to similarly situated persons who are not judges, based upon the same terms and criteria;

   (7) books, magazines, journals, audiovisual materials, and other resource materials supplied by publishers on a complimentary basis for official use; or

   (8) gifts, awards, or benefits associated with the business, profession, or other separate activity of a spouse, a domestic partner,* or other member of a judge's family residing in the judge’s household,* but that incidentally benefit the judge.

   (C) Unless otherwise prohibited by law or by paragraph (A), a judge may accept the following items, and must report such acceptance to the extent required by Rule 3.15:

   (1) gifts incident to a public testimonial;

   (2) invitations to the judge and the judge’s spouse, domestic partner, or guest to attend without charge:

   (a) an event associated with a bar-related function or other activity relating to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; or

   (b) an event associated with any of the judge’s educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic activities permitted by this Code, if the same invitation is offered to nonjudges who are engaged in similar ways in the activity as is the judge; and

   (3) gifts, loans, bequests, benefits, or other things of value from any source other than a member of the judge’s family.

COMMENT

 

   [1] Whenever a judge accepts a gift or other thing of value without paying fair market value, there is a risk that the benefit might be viewed as intended to influence the judge’s decision in a case. This Rule imposes restrictions upon the acceptance of such benefits, according to the magnitude of the risk. Paragraph (B) identifies circumstances in which the risk that the acceptance would appear to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality is low, and explicitly provides that such items need not be publicly reported. As the value of the benefit or the likelihood that the source of the benefit will appear before the judge increases, the judge is either prohibited under paragraph (A) from accepting the gift, or required under paragraph (C) to publicly report it.

 

   [2] [Reserved.]

 

   [3] Businesses and financial institutions frequently make available special pricing, discounts, and other benefits, either in connection with a temporary promotion or for preferred customers, based upon longevity of the relationship, volume of business transacted, and other factors. A judge may freely accept such benefits if they are available to the general public, or if the judge qualifies for the special price or discount according to the same criteria as are applied to persons who are not judges. As an example, loans provided at generally prevailing interest rates are not gifts, but a judge could not accept a loan from a financial institution at below-market interest rates unless the same rate was being made available to the general public for a certain period of time or only to borrowers with specified qualifications that the judge also possesses.

 

   [4] This Rule applies only to acceptance of gifts or other things of value by a judge. Nonetheless, if a gift or other benefit is given to the judge’s spouse, domestic partner, or member of the judge’s family residing in the judge’s household, it may be viewed as an attempt to evade Rule 3.13 and influence the judge indirectly. Where the gift or benefit is being made primarily to such other persons, and the judge is merely an incidental beneficiary, this concern is reduced. A judge should, however, remind family and household members of the restrictions imposed upon judges, and urge them to take these restrictions into account when making decisions about accepting such gifts or benefits.

 

   [5] This Rule does not apply to contributions to a judge’s campaign for judicial office. Such contributions are governed by other Rules of this Code, including Rules 4.3 and 4.4.

 

Supreme Court Rules

This page was last modified on Monday, October 22, 2012