Opinions of the Judicial Ethics
Advisory Committee



Gifts



Canons
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5D(5)(h) and Commentary Judges may not accept gifts, favors, bequests, or loans from lawyers, their firms or litigants if they have come or are likely to come before the judge.
Fta. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5D(5), Commentary “Because a gift, bequest, favor or loan to a member of the judge’s family residing in the judge’s household might be viewed as intended to influence the judge, a judge must inform those family members of the relevant ethical constraints upon the judge in this regard and discourage those family members from violating them. A judge cannot, however, reasonably be expected to know or control all of the financial or business activities of all family members residing in the judge’s household.”
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5D(5)(d), Commentary “A gift to a judge, or to a member of the judge’s family living in the judge’s household, that is excessive in value raises questions about the judge’s impartiality and the integrity of the judicial office and might require disqualification of the judge where disqualification would not otherwise be required.”
Opinions
Gifts Which May Be Accepted
JEAC Opinion Number
Subject

Permissible for the copiers to be donated by a professional association to the court system for the exclusive use and benefit of attorneys in the courtroom.  The facts of this inquiry do not involve a gift to any judge or court employee. 2B, 5D 5D(5)(h), and Commentary.

A judge may allow law-related organizations and a private law firm to jointly host a free post-seminar reception at the judges’ courthouse and may accept food/drink provided by the organizations/law firm at the event. 2B, 4B, 5D.

It is not acceptance of a “gift” for a judge to permit the use of chambers for the display of art acquired by the local government for display in an art-in-public-places program. 2, 2B, 3B(1), 3B(5), 3B(10), 3E(1), 5D(5).
General magistrate may accept and use a government rate discount applicable to all attorneys employed by the government for tickets to the local legal aid organization’s annual gala, if the general magistrate’s conduct does not appear to a reasonable person to cast reasonable doubt on the capacity to act impartially as a general magistrate. Definitions, Application, 2, 2A, Commentary to 2A, Commentary to 2B, 4, 4A(1)–4A(5), 4B, 4D(2)(b), Commentary to 4D(2), 5D(5)(a), 5D(5)(h).
Judge assigned to a dependency division may accept donations of items for children to play with while the children are in court, as long as neither the judge nor the judge’s court personnel solicits the donations. 4A, 5D(5)(h).
A judge may retain an attorney and negotiate a reduction from the attorney’s usual rate, as long as the inquiring judge ensures that the fee rate is based on legitimate considerations other than the fact that the client is a judge.  A judge, however, must report fee discounts or reduction in fees as a gift if the discount is based on non-business factors, such as professional courtesy, available to all members of the legal community (not judges only), and the gift is not listed in Canon 5D(5)(a) through (g).  A judge may also accept from a former employer partial reimbursement of attorney’s fees incurred by the judge in connection with the judge’s former employment as long as the judge complies with all other provisions of the Code.  5D(1)(a), 5D(5), and 6B(2).
A judge may exchange lesser-valued sporting tickets with a close personal lawyer friend whose law firm purchases higher-valued sporting tickets with access to the firm’s suite/skybox only if, absent the ticket exchange, the judge would disqualify himself or herself from cases involving the lawyer friend pursuant to Canon 5D(5)(e) and no one in the law firm ever appears before the judge.  The judge must consider the aggregate value of the tickets in complying with gift reporting under Canon 6B if the judge accepts the tickets from a donor who has not and is not likely to come before the judge.  Also, even if the aggregate value of the tickets is $100 or less, the tickets are not exempt from the gift reporting requirement of Canon 6B.  2B; 3E(1)(b); 5A; 5D(5)(e); 5D(5)(h); and 6B(2).
Judge may accept invitation to attend a Guardian Ad Litem holiday party honoring volunteers because party is a function or an activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.  5D(5)(a), 5D(5)(h), and Commentary to 5D(5)(a).
2003-10
Recedes from JEAC Opinion 93-12
Judge may accept free golf membership from a very close family friend whose involvement in any case would cause a judge to disqualify himself or herself. The judge is not required to disclose this gift membership on his financial disclosure as it falls within the provisions of Canon 5D(5)(e). 5D(5)(e),(h); 6B(2)
2002-20
Recedes from JEAC Opinion 91-07
Code of Judicial Conduct does not require a judge to report every gift from a spouse, child, sibling or close personal friend. 5D(5)(d), (e), and (h) and 6B(2).
Judge may accept a gift from the bar association in appreciation of years spent presiding at the satellite courthouse.   -5, 5D(5)(a)-(h), 6.
Judge may attend a bar luncheon, sponsored by law firms and parties likely to come before the judge’s court, where attendance fees for the judiciary are waived. 4, 4B, 5, 5(D)(5)(a), 5D(5)(h) and 6.
Judge may attend luncheons, receptions, and social events that are sponsored by bar associations of either plaintiff’s or defense lawyers. Judge may speak at a luncheon of plaintiff’s or defense lawyer’s group on law-related or trial-law-related subject for the edification of the members of the plaintiff’s bar association or defense bar association. 5, 5D(5)(a), and 5(D)(5)(h)
Judge may accept reimbursement for his airline ticket and hotel room expenses when honored at the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Annual meeting and such expense reimbursement does not have to be reported as a gift. 5D(5)(a) and Commentary; Canon 5D(5)(h) and Commentary; and Canon 6B(2)
Judge may accept free membership in the County Bar Association and free lunches served at membership meetings. 5C(4)(a)
Gifts Which May Not be Accepted
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not provide guidance for how a judge should dispose of an anonymous cash gift.  Preamble; Canons 5D(5); 5C(3)(b)(iii); 6; and Commentary to Canon 5D(5)(d).
Judge may not directly solicit donations of used books for use by inmates in jail library from attorneys and others, because the judge may not solicit or accept gifts for any reason from those who appear before the judge, and because the solicitation and receipt of donations may convey the impression that the judge will favor those who donate, provide grounds to question the judge’s impartiality, and may appear to be coercive. 4A, 5A, 5D(5)(h).
Judge presiding over drug court may not accept donations of incentive gifts to reward drug court participants from local lawyers or law firms if they have come or are likely to come before the judge.   Even though these gifts would not be for the personal use of the judge or the judge’s staff, acceptance of gifts for any purpose from lawyers or law firms likely to come before the judge may exploit the judicial position, give rise to questions of impartiality, or convey the impression that others are in a position to influence the judge.  2A; 2B; 3E, E(1); 5A(1), (1)(a); 5D(5)(h) and Commentary to Canon 3E(1), 5D(1) and 5D(5)(h).
Judge may not participate in a law firm’s litigation program by presiding over mock trials at a firm retreat to be held at a local resort. The law firm offered to pay for the room and meals of the judge. Canon 5 precludes a judge from accepting any gift or favor from anyone who has come or is likely to come and whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge. 4B
Judge and/or a court employee may not accept gifts, including money and redeemable gift certificates from lawyers, vendors, or other third parties. 3B(3); 3B(4); 3B(5); 3C(2); 5D (5); 5D(5)(h)
Judge may not accept an honorary membership in a military officers’ club that is also offered to all judges within the same circuit. The Committee receded from 1992-15a and now permits a judge to accept a gift presented to him/her as an individual from an outside donor as long as the judge adheres to reporting and disclosure requirements in the Canons. However, judges are prohibited as a group from receiving gifts/memberships from a donor. 5D and 5D(5)(h)
Judge may not accept an honorary membership in a yacht club, where the yacht club gives honorary membership to public officials in the county. A judge may accept a membership if offered only to him. A judge may accept memberships offered to state, county and municipal employees at various attractions such as Disney World, Sea World, etc., as long as these memberships are offered to all employees. 2B; 5
Judge may not accept a reduced price membership from a city golf course, the discount having been offered to all public officials. 5C(4)(c)