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Financial Activities - Ex. 2

A judge's daughter receives a gift

Judge Murray has been randomly assigned a case over an accident at Omega Discount House. A week before the case is scheduled for trial, her teenage daughter receives in the mail a $500 gift certificate from Omega "for our valued customer." The daughter had shopped occasionally at the store.

1. Nothing; the gift certificate is only for the daughter and will not affect the judge’s handling of the trial.
While judges and their families may accept gifts under a wide variety of circumstances enumerated in NMRA 21-500 (D) (5), the gift certificate described in this example does not fall into any of the allowed categories. Its timing and size render it highly suspect and the judge must return it. Recusal from the case would probably be inappropriate, however, since that would delay the trial and violate the judge’s duty to hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in which disqualification is required, NMRA 21-300 (B) (1). Unless the judge feels that the incident has so tainted her objectivity that she can no longer preside with impartiality over the case, or that her impartiality could somehow reasonably be questioned, recusal is not required. NMRA 21-400 (A). Notifying the attorneys of the incident and alerting prosecutorial authorities over what appears to have been an attempted bribe should discharge the judge’s ethical obligations.
2. Recuse from the case, since the gift certificate may give the appearance of a bribe.
While judges and their families may accept gifts under a wide variety of circumstances enumerated in NMRA 21-500 (D) (5), the gift certificate described in this example does not fall into any of the allowed categories. Its timing and size render it highly suspect and the judge must return it. Recusal from the case would probably be inappropriate, however, since that would delay the trial and violate the judge’s duty to hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in which disqualification is required, NMRA 21-300 (B) (1). Unless the judge feels that the incident has so tainted her objectivity that she can no longer preside with impartiality over the case, or that her impartiality could somehow reasonably be questioned, recusal is not required. NMRA 21-400 (A). Notifying the attorneys of the incident and alerting prosecutorial authorities over what appears to have been an attempted bribe should discharge the judge’s ethical obligations.
3. Return the gift certificate and alert attorneys for both parties and the district attorney to the incident.
While judges and their families may accept gifts under a wide variety of circumstances enumerated in NMRA 21-500 (D) (5), the gift certificate described in this example does not fall into any of the allowed categories. Its timing and size render it highly suspect and the judge must return it. Recusal from the case would probably be inappropriate, however, since that would delay the trial and violate the judge’s duty to hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in which disqualification is required, NMRA 21-300 (B) (1). Unless the judge feels that the incident has so tainted her objectivity that she can no longer preside with impartiality over the case, or that her impartiality could somehow reasonably be questioned, recusal is not required. NMRA 21-400 (A). Notifying the attorneys of the incident and alerting prosecutorial authorities over what appears to have been an attempted bribe should discharge the judge’s ethical obligations.