April 2, 1984

Opinion No. 84/4
Complimentary Bar membership

Dear Judge

This is in response to your inquiry concerning the propriety of accepting a free membership in the ...County Bar Association (dues are normally $75 per year) and lunches served at eight membership meetings per year (normal charge is $10 per meal). You state that the Bar Association has recently voted to make all members of the local judiciary honorary members and has returned checks received for payment of dues by judges.

The participating members of the committee unanimously respond that your acceptance of a membership and lunches does not violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.

One member responds:

(J)udges should attend Bar meetings and be able to assist with Bar functions. If a Bar Association is inclined to waive dues requirements and charges for luncheons, etc., I see no reason why a judge should be prohibited from accepting the Bar Association's generosity. I do not find a Bar Association's actions in this regard even remotely analogous to membership in a yacht club/golf course.

 

A number of members responded that honorary Bar Association memberships for judges are customary. The meetings are law related and an appropriate setting for contact between members of the Bar and Bench who must work together for the improvement of the legal system.

Canon 5C(4)(a), concerning gifts which a judge may accept, provides:

 

(A) judge may accept a gift incident to a public testimonial to him; books supplied by publishers on a complimentary basis for official use; or an invitation to the judge and his spouse to attend a bar-related function or activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice;

Sincerely,

Anne C. Booth, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

cc: All Committee Members

All reference to the inquiring judge is deleted from the copies sent to the following individuals.

Mr. Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida
Linda Yates, Managing Editor, The Florida Bar Journal
Mark Hulsey, Esq., Chairman, Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Hon. Howard T. Markey, Chairman, Ethics Advisory Panel of the Judicial Conference of the United States .
Jeffrey M. Shaman, Esquire, Director, Center for Judicial Conduct Organizations
Ms. Jean Underhill, Librarian, Broward County Law Library
Mr. Robert Wallace, Librarian, Dade County Law Library
Mr. Brian Polley, Librarian, Supreme Court of Florida

Participating members: Judges Booth, Carlisle, Dell, Green, Grube, Hewitt, Letts, and Attorney Samuel J. Powers, Jr.