Appointment As Director of Organization Involved in Litigation

December 30, 1991

CJE Opinion No. 91-2

You have requested the advice of this Committee on whether you, a Probate and Family Court judge, may serve on an advisory committee being established by the Coalition for Battered Women Service Groups. In your request you describe the coalition as a statewide organization which provides support to individual agencies which comprise the coalition. This support may take the form of technical assistance for sheltering programs or assistance in securing funds for hiring consultants. The coalition does not provide direct services to individual clients. The Advisory Committee would meet twice annually to provide advice and lend support to the programs of the Coalition. The names of the members of the advisory committee and board of directors would appear on the stationery of the coalition. While you acknowledge that you would not be personally involved in any fund raising, the Coalition will be engaged in fund raising and public education programs. It is likely that a significant number of women who receive the benefits of the coalition's activities, albeit indirectly, also seek relief from abuse under G.L. c. 208, §18, c. 209, §32 and/or c. 209A. As such these persons are involved in litigation pending in the Probate and Family Court department.

Canon 5(B) in some instances permits a judge to serve as a non-legal advisor of an educational, charitable, or civic organization, but not if it is an organization conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members. If the Coalition for Battered Women Service Groups can be regarded as an educational, charitable or civic organization, service as an advisor is nevertheless subject to the restriction in Canon 5(B) and to the overriding restrictions of Canon 2.

Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that:

"(A) A judge . . . should conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

"(B) A judge should not allow his family, social or other relationships to influence his judicial conduct or judgment. He should not lend the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others, nor should he convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence him. . . ."

Your membership in an organization dedicated to the needs of women who are battered would call into question your impartiality in deciding cases such as those mentioned above. It would also tend to lend the prestige of your office to advancing the interests of battered women and has the potential to convey the impression that persons served by the organization have a special position of influence with you. For these reasons, Canon 2 precludes your membership on the Advisory Committee.