December 1, 2020
This responds to your inquiry (20-184) asking if you may accept an award for domestic violence awareness month in your capacity as a treatment court judge, although you also preside in family court and county court. The award is not tied to any fund-raising event or drive. The not-for-profit entity offering the award offers legal advocacy services (including “assistance with family court petitions”) and other resources and support for domestic violence victims, including counseling, emergency housing assistance, and referrals. You note this entity has appeared before you in family court, “on occasion.”
We believe you may not accept the award under the circumstances described. Opinion 00-92 likewise addressed a family court judge who wished to accept an award from a local domestic violence program. As we explained (id.):
Here, the county domestic violence program provides advocacy, assistance and support services on behalf of domestic violence victims, including assistance to individuals in completing petitions to be filed in the Family Court, and attending Family Court proceedings with domestic violence victims for the purpose of providing emotional support and counseling. Because the program’s activities are focused on supporting the petitioner (and the petitioner only) in the context of adversarial proceedings that come before the Family Court judge, accepting the award may reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality.
Enclosed for your reference is Opinion 00-92.
Very truly yours
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Acting Supreme Court Justice