Massachusetts law about ethics

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on ethics law.

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Table of Contents

I. Relating to Public Employees

>Best bet

Massachusetts State Ethics Commission
The State Ethics Commission is an independent state agency that administers and enforces the provisions of the conflict of interest law and financial disclosure law for public employees. This is a link to their homepage.

>Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 268A Conflict of interest law

MGL c. 268B Financial disclosure law

>Massachusetts regulations

930 CMR State Ethics Commission regulations

>State Ethics Commission decisions, advisories, and opinions

Ethics Commission advisories
These advisories are organized by subject. The advisories summarize prior Commission precedent. They provide examples of how the conflict law applies to public employees.

Ethics Commission public enforcement cases and decisions
State Ethics Commission enforcement matters listed by subject area, specifying individuals and businesses. 

Ethics Commission public legal opinions
Legal opinions issued by the Ethics Commission regarding the conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws. These opinions are organized by subject. They deal with specific circumstances. The opinions do not name individuals involved.

Ethics Commission public resolutions and rulings
Rulings include enforcement decisions, advisories, and opinions issued by the Commission during the calendar year.

>Court decisions

Significant court decisions
"Court decisions either involving the State Ethics Commission or that are cited in Commission legal opinions and enforcement decisions and used to establish Commission precedent."

>Mandatory training for public employees

Complete conflict of interest law education requirements, State Ethics Commission.
Public employees hired after April 2, 2010 must complete this training within 30 days of beginning public service. The training must be repeated every 2 years after that. This link includes programs for municipal, state, and county employees.

Learn more about the conflict of interest law, State Ethics Commission.
Everything you need to know about the conflict of interest law for state and municipal employees. You can sign up to attend an upcoming conflict of interest law seminar at the State Ethics Commission office. You can also schedule a seminar in your community or for your agency.

New State Ethics Commission training and learning platform
A new training platform through which all state, county, and municipal employees can complete the conflict of interest law education requirements.

>Web sources

Ethics Commission laws, regulations, legal opinions and decisions
Links to ethics resources for public employees.

File or view conflict of interest disclosure forms, State Ethics Commission.
File a disclosure form as a state, county or municipal employee, or view disclosure forms, which are public records.

>Print sources

Ethical standards in the public sector : a guide for government lawyers, clients, and public officials, American Bar Association, State and Local Government Law Section, 2022.

II. Relating to Judges, Clerks of Court, and Attorneys

>Best bet

Massachusetts rules of professional conduct, Mass. Court System. 
This is a collection of rules governing professional conduct for attorneys, judges, and clerks of court.

>Massachusetts ethics rules 

Code of judicial conduct (SJC Rule 3:09)
Rules that govern judicial conduct.

Rules governing attorney professional conduct, Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers.

Rules of the Committee on Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts
A list of all the rules that govern the procedures of the Committee in the exercise of its jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:13.

Rules of professional conduct (SJC Rule 3:07)
Rules pertaining to attorneys, including the client-lawyer relationship.

>Massachusetts ethics rulings: decisions, advisories, and opinions

Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts
The Advisory Committee provides advisory opinions to clerks, registers and their assistants, with respect to the rules of court that govern the ethical and professional conduct of clerks. Learn more about the committee and its history.

Committee on Judicial Ethics
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Committee on Judicial Ethics is established by SJC Rule 3:11. It is a source of advice for judges, as well as organizations and associations of judges or lawyers, concerning the requirements of the Code of Judicial Conduct, SJC Rule 3:09.

Judicial and clerks' ethics opinions, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court.
A listing of recently released ethics opinions for judges and court clerks.

Opinions of the Committee on Professional Ethics, Mass. Bar Association.
Opinions regarding attorney conduct published since 1973.

Rules of the Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for Clerks of Court (SJC Rule 3:14)
Process to request an opinion from the Advisory Committee.

>Selected cases

Commonwealth v. Anthony Dew, 492 Mass. 254 (2023)
"A Superior Court judge erred in denying the criminal defendant's postconviction motion for a new trial and for leave to withdraw his guilty pleas based on deprivation of his right to effective assistance of counsel, where defense counsel's deep-seated animus against persons of the Muslim faith and his racism against Black persons, demonstrated by counsel's vitriolic social media posts (some contemporaneous with his representation of the defendant) and manifest in his treatment of the defendant -- a Black, Muslim man -- during the representation presented an actual conflict of interest in this case, and the defendant was not required to prove how his counsel's bigotry might have affected the plea deal or otherwise impaired the representation."

>File a complaint or seek assistance

File a complaint against a court clerk, clerk magistrate, case manager, register or recorder, Supreme Judicial Court.
SJC Rule 3:13, which outlines the procedure to file a complaint against professional court staff and clerks.

File a complaint against an attorney, Mass. Board of Bar Overseers.
Process to file a complaint against an attorney through the BBO.

File a complaint for judicial misconduct, Mass. Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Report judicial misconduct or disability.

Trial Court Office of Workplace Rights and Compliance
The OWRC works with court employees and users to prevent and eliminate discrimination and harassment in the court system.

>Web sources

Articles on ethics, Mass. Board of Bar Overseers.

Frequently asked ethical questions, Mass. Board of Bar Overseers.
Ethical questions which confront attorneys.

>Print sources

Do no wrong: Ethics for prosecutors and defenders, American Bar Association, 2009.

Ethical lawyering in Massachusetts, 6th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf, 2024.

Legal ethics : the lawyer’s deskbook on professional responsibility, Thomson Reuters, annual.

Legal ethics and social media : a practitioner's handbook, American Bar Association, Center for Professional Responsibility, 2022.

Navigating conflicts and other ethical litigation landmines, MCLE, 2021.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about ethics

Last updated: May 10, 2024

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