Opinion 23-79


June 15, 2023


Digest:  A judge may accept a trade union’s offer of a social dinner and overnight accommodations at the union’s annual convention for the judge and their spouse, where the union and its members have not come, and are not likely to come, before the judge.


Rules:   22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(D)(5)(c); 100.4(D)(5)(h); 100.4(I).




          A full-time judge asks if it is permissible to accept an invitation from a trade union to attend strictly social components of the union’s upcoming member convention, specifically a dinner and guest accommodations for the judge and the judge’s spouse for one night, followed by breakfast the next day.  The judge states that they have long-time close personal friendships with many members of the union, which also supported the judge’s recent candidacy for election or re-election to judicial office.  The judge advises that none of the members or the union itself have appeared or are likely to appear before the judge.  Should any unlikely conflict arise, the judge would recuse if one of the judge’s close personal friends appeared, would disclose if the union appeared, and would disclose for anyone the judge recognized as a union member. 


          A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]).  While a judge may not accept all gifts, a judge may accept “ordinary social hospitality” (22 NYCRR 100.4[D][5][c]) and the catch-all exception permits a judge to accept a “gift, bequest, favor or loan” if “the donor is not a party or other person who has come or is likely to come or whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge” (22 NYCRR 100.4[D][5][h]).


          As the judge states that neither the union nor its members have appeared or are likely to appear before the judge, we conclude the judge may accept meals and overnight accommodations for the judge and the judge’s spouse (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[D][5][h]). 


          The judge is reminded that they must comply with any Part 40 reporting requirements, if applicable (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[I]).  The Unified Court System’s Ethics Commission (tel. 212-428-2899) is the agency authorized to interpret Part 40 and advise on reporting requirements thereunder.