Attendance at private dinner with Lt. Governor.

May 3, 1995

Opinion 95-4

Dear:

This is in response to your request for advice from the Advisory Committee. On April 12, 1995, you sent, by fax transmittal, a letter to the Committee requesting an opinion as to whether your attendance at a private dinner event would be in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts.

You are the Clerk-Magistrate of the District Court. You recently received an invitation to attend a private dinner with Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci. A copy of the invitation was attached to your letter. The invitation issued from the Republican National Committeewoman from Massachusetts, the Vice Chairwoman of the Republican Party for Massachusetts, the Treasurer of the Republican Party for Massachusetts, the Senate Minority Leader and seven additional named persons. It invited you to attend the dinner as the guest of those issuing the invitation, and described the dinner as one to be held "with the next Governor of the Commonwealth". The dinner was to take place at the Country Club. It was to be a private dinner and no donations were required of the guests. You requested a prompt response from this Committee so that you could submit a timely reply to the invitation.

On April 14, 1995 the Secretary to the Committee called to tell you that, in the opinion of the members, your attendance at the dinner would be the type of political activity prohibited under Canon 6 of the Code. This letter is to confirm the advice you were given by telephone.

Canon 6 of the Code addresses the subject of political activity. This canon contains a general prohibition on political activity by non-elected Clerk-Magistrates. In addition to the general prohibition, the canon lists four types of political activity that are specifically prohibited. The canon states that non-elected Clerk-Magistrates shall:

. . . refrain from political activity and, in particular, shall not:

  1. act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;
  2. make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office;
  3. solicit funds for a political organization or candidate; or
  4. hold or seek an elective public office if there is a substantial likelihood that matters involving that office will come before the Clerk-Magistrate. . .

In the opinion of the Committee, your attendance at the dinner event for Lt. Gov. Cellucci would constitute the type of political activity that is covered by the general prohibition on political activity contained in Canon 6. The identity of the sponsors of the event and the guest of honor, as well as his description as "the next governor" all contribute to the members' opinion that the dinner would be a political activity that is prohibited under Canon 6. The dinner can be viewed as an early campaign event. In addition, although it is designated a private dinner, your appearance at such a dinner held at the Country Club can be perceived as coming close to a public endorsement of a candidate, which endorsement would be specifically prohibited by paragraph (2) of Canon 6. For these reasons, the Committee has concluded that your attendance would violate Canon 6.