Opinion  CJE Opinion No. 92-2

Date: 04/02/1992
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

After the Committee on Judicial Ethics issued this opinion, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court adopted a revised Code of Judicial Conduct. Because this opinion was rendered under a prior version of the Code, a judge should not rely on it without contacting the Committee on Judicial Ethics.

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Committee on Judicial Ethics

Table of Contents

Purchase of Tickets for and Attendance at Charitable Fund-Raiser Honoring a State Senator

You have asked whether you, as a judge, may properly purchase tickets for and attend a charitable fund-raising dinner in honor of a particular State senator, who will be "roasted" at the dinner. The promotional material for the dinner indicates that many prominent political figures will be featured speakers. The charitable cause that will be the beneficiary of the proceeds of the dinner is a non-profit, multi-service agency, with tax-deductible status, which focuses its activities on the treatment and rehabilitation of substance-abusing women. It operates residences designed to treat such women and to restore them to self-sufficiency in the community.

Despite the political cast of the dinner, it is not, as you describe it, a political gathering, a political party dinner, or a political function within the meaning of canon 7(A)(1)(c) of the Code of Judicial Conduct (Supreme Judicial Court rule 3:09 [1985], as amended), because the purpose of the dinner is not to raise money for or otherwise support a political candidate, party, or cause. (1) Rather, the dinner comes within the scope of canon 5(B)(2), which, although it prohibits a judge from soliciting funds for charitable causes or permitting the prestige of his office to be used for such a purpose, expressly permits a judge to attend the fund-raising events of a charitable organization so long as he is not a speaker or a guest of honor. See Advisory Opinion 89-3, which advised that a judge may not permit his or her name to be used as one of a group of honored guests for a charitable fund-raising dinner.

In the view of the committee, canon 5(B)(2) permits you to purchase tickets for and attend the dinner in question.

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(1) We caution, however, that in factual situations where a gathering might be thought to have a dual function of supporting both a charitable cause and a political cause, a judge could not properly be in attendance. There is no indication that this is such a situation. Your conclusion that that function is non-political is buttressed by the fact that the State senator who is the subject of the "roast" has announced his retirement from elective office at the close of this year.

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