March 9, 1995
Digest: A judge may not use a movie pass given to the judge by the lessees of a group assisted by the judge when the judge occupied a previous political position.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2
A judge inquires whether he or she may utilize an admission card which would allow the judge to pay only one dollar for entrance to a movie; the usual cost currently is $7.50. Prior to taking the bench, the judge held a political office that impacted upon the acquisition of the premises where the cinema complex was built. The premises were thereafter leased to the donor of the card. The inquirer notes that the “operators of the movie theater... do not have any matters pending in my court.”
Although there is no specific prohibition, on balance, there appears to be a sufficient appearance of impropriety so that the judge should not utilize the admission card.
The admission card is essentially a gift to the judge and represents a benefit each time it is used. It is but a small, reasoned step from knowledge of the gift to the assumption that there is a special or influential relationship between the donor and the receiver of the gift. The committee notes that it is not relevant that the theater operators currently have no matters pending in the judge’s court, since it does not appear that the admission card has any expiration date.