State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 91-19
Is it proper for a judicial officer to accept a complimentary membership in a social club by the waiver of the initiation fee or monthly fee, when the membership is given because of the judicial position held?
Judicial membership in private clubs in not prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Whether a judge should accept a gift is an ethical dilemma requiring an analysis of Canon 5C(4)(c) and Canon 2B. Even though the gift offered and accepted complies with Canon 5C, the provisions of Canon 2B must also be met.
There is no restriction on a judge accepting a gift, even a very expensive gift so long as the provisions of Canon 5C(4)(c) are not violated and the reporting requirements of Canon 6C are also met. The acceptance of gifts however, must also comply with Canon 2B. Acceptance of complimentary memberships offered judges because of the position they hold creates the perception that it lends the prestige of the judicial office to the donor. These gifts of membership may convey the impression or permit others to convey the impression that the club and its members are in a special position to influence the judge and thereby violates Canon 2B.
If judges have accepted complimentary memberships they may elect to remain members but should make arrangements to pay for their memberships.
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