Opinion No. 216 (1997)

QUESTION: Would it be proper for a judge who is hearing a case out of county to stay in the lake house of a lawyer who often appears in his court? The lawyer has no connection with the out of county case. Would it make any difference if the county paid the attorney the same rate that would be paid if the judge stayed in a motel?

ANSWER: No, a judge may accept gifts or hospitality only under very limited circumstances as described in Proposed Opinion No. 215. This use of the lake home is specifically disallowed in Canon 4D(4)(c), i.e., a judge may not accept the gift from a person whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge.

If The county pays for the judge's stay, the judge could avoid ethical violation, but only if the payment is commensurate with the market value of the accommodations and the rental is done regularly and not just to the judge.