December 18, 2014
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
This responds to your inquiry (14-156) asking if you and/or your court attorneys may attend a Continuing Legal Education program offered by a private legal training organization founded by an attorney, as the founder’s guest. According to your inquiry, the scheduled speakers who are attorneys and the organization’s founder either have never practiced in your court or may have appeared on an isolated case many years ago. You indicate the value of the program is between $200 and $300 per person.
The Committee has previously advised that a judge may accept free admission to a continuing legal education seminar offered by a private legal training organization that is owned and/or operated by an attorney who has not appeared, and is not likely to appear, in the judge’s court, subject to a reporting requirement if the value of the gift exceeds $150 (see Opinion 14-74). Similarly, given the facts you describe, you may attend the Continuing Legal Education program offered by the private legal training organization, but also must comply with the same reporting requirement.
If the organization’s founder or any of the speakers do appear in your court “within a reasonable period of time after the event,” you should disclose the gift (see id.).
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics takes no position as to whether your court attorneys may attend the Continuing Legal Education program as guests, as their ethical responsibilities are governed by Part 50 of the Rules of the Chief Judge (22 NYCRR Part 50). They should contact the Ethics Helpline to learn whether they may attend (Contact: ETHICS HELPLINE: 1-888-2ETHIC).
Enclosed, for your convenience, is Opinion 14-74, which addresses this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)