The Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts was created in 1990, see SJC Rule 3:14, to render advisory opinions to Clerks, Registers and their assistants and individuals nominated to be clerks who seek advice "with respect to the interpretation of rules of court relating to the ethical and professional conduct of Clerk-Magistrates," i.e., the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts, SJC Rule 3:12. Currently, the five members of the Committee are:
Hon. Barbara Dortch-Okara, Superior Court, Chair
Mary Beth Brady, Clerk Magistrate, Malden District Court
Anastasia W. Perrino, Esq., Register, Barnstable Probate and Family Court
Elizabeth M. Maunsell, Esq., Clerk Magistrate, East Brookfield District Court
Richard L. Neumeier, Esq., Morrison Mahoney, LLP
The Secretary of the Committee is Christine Burak, Esq., SJC Legal Counsel to the Chief Justice, who may be reached at 617-557-1161, or by email at email@example.com.
The Advisory Committee is a source of advice for Clerks, Registers and their assistants concerning the requirements of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts. A clerk who seeks and receives a written opinion from the Committee and then follows a course of conduct in reliance on that opinion is protected from disciplinary action even if the Committee's opinion should later turn out to have been erroneous.
The SJC rule creating the Committee and the rules of the Committee itself are reproduced on this site. The rules deal primarily with the process by which written opinions of the Committee are obtained - both regular opinions and emergency opinions. Historically, these formal, written opinions were published periodically, in redacted form so that the identities of the requesting clerks couldn't be ascertained. The opinions, in redacted form, are available here.
Requests for advisory opinions should be made by letter, addressed to Christine Burak, Esq., Secretary, Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, Suite 2500, One Pemberton Square, Boston, MA 02108-1750. Only a Clerk-Magistrate may make a request. The term Clerk-Magistrate is defined in SJC Rule 3:12, Canon 1 to mean "anyone serving in the position of Clerk-Magistrate, Clerk, Register, Recorder, Assistant Clerk-Magistrate, Assistant Clerk, Assistant Register or Deputy Recorder, in the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, or a Department of the Trial Court of the Commonwealth, whether elected or appointed, and whether serving in a permanent or temporary capacity." Requests for opinions and advice are kept confidential.