Performing legal research for a law firm while on furlough or an authorized vacation.

May 15, 1991

Opinion 91-5

Dear Clerk:

You requested advice of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court as to whether you would be allowed to work at a law firm doing legal research while on furlough as proposed by Governor Weld or while on an authorized vacation.

Since Assistant Clerk-Magistrate is listed as a critical and essential position by the Trial Court in a memorandum from the Chief Administrative Justice dated April 8, 1991, you will not be allowed time off while you are on furlough; therefore the question in this regard is moot.

As to whether you may do legal research for compensation while on authorized vacation time, it is the committee's opinion that this conduct falls under Canon 3, Performance of Duties, which provides that "[a] Clerk-Magistrate shall not engage in the practice of law." It is the opinion of the committee that an attorney performing legal research at a law firm will clearly be perceived as practicing law, which is not only a violation of the Code but also a violation of S.J.C. Rule 3:02.

To ensure the integrity of the judicial system, it "must not only be beyond suspicion but must appear to be so." Mass. Bar Assn. v. Cronin, 351 Mass. 321, 326 (1966).