Opinion

Opinion CJE Opinion No. 93-2

Date: 12/27/1993
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

Invitation to Write a Forward to a Book

You, a judge of the Probate and Family Court, have requested advice from this Committee regarding the propriety of writing a forward, without pay, to a book on the subject of divorce. The author is someone you have never met previously and is not a lawyer.

The most relevant provision of the governing Code of Judicial Conduct is Canon 4, which provides that "A judge, subject to the proper performance of his judicial duties may . . . , if in doing so he does not cast doubt on his capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before him . . . speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice." Writing a forward to another person's book falls squarely within the permission granted by Canon 4.

There is another Canon that might be read to qualify that permission. Canon 2(B) provides that "A judge . . . should not lend the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others . . . ." We do not believe that the far-ranging language of this Canon should be construed to cover the conduct about which you enquire. A book jointly authored by a judge and a private party could be said to advance the private interests of that third party. However broad the coverage of Canon 2(B) may be, we do not think it should be construed to extend to the educational venture of writing a book when engaged in by a judge with a private party. We would therefore not extend it to the jointly-authored book, and similar principles should govern the writing of a forward, even though the educational contribution of the judge to the total product would be less than in a jointly-authored book.

However, in giving this advice, we would urge that you be mindful of the qualification contained in Canon 4 that the judge not write anything that would "cast doubt on his capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before him." Since the book deals with the general subject matter of your judicial assignment, you should be careful, both in what you say in your own words and in the way you associate yourself with anything the author may say, that you comply with the conditions contained in Canon 4.

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