Opinion  CJE Opinion No. 97-9

Date: 10/17/1997
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.

Contact   for CJE Opinion No. 97-9

Committee on Judicial Ethics

Table of Contents

Assisting Organizations to Educate Courts

You seek the advice of this Committee concerning a request you have received to participate in a project designed to educate courts, correctional authorities, and parole boards, in creating coordinated programs, based on improved or new methodologies, designed to improve the effectiveness of criminal justice systems. The organization, the Center for Effective Public Policy, is a nonprofit organization that describes itself as "working . . . with practitioners at the point where theory, new experimental knowledge and practice converge." A recent, major focus of the Center's activity has involved "the formation of policy groups involving courts, prosecutors, the defense bar, corrections agencies, legislative bodies, and private sector service providers to identify the need for intermediate sanctions and build a policy framework within which they can be used effectively." The Center has applied to the United States Department of Justice for funding of a project that would provide "technical assistance to courts and corrections agencies as they work to develop effective sentencing strategies." The role that the Center has asked you to play, assuming that the project is funded, is to serve as a consultant to the Center in presenting programs to courts and parole authorities in the several states, and in providing technical education and assistance, aimed at developing integrated sentencing, correctional, and parole policies, utilizing the most modern techniques and strategies. Much of your work activity prior to becoming a judge, coupled with your judicial work uniquely qualifies you to perform this function.

You indicate in your letter that your services in this project would be charged to personal leave time, implicitly recognizing your obligation under Canon 3 to order your affairs so that your judicial duties take precedence over your extra-judicial activities. The primary focus of the proposed activity, as you describe it, is educational, falling comfortably within the permission of Canon 4(A) that a judge "may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in . . . activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice." Probably not involved, but closely related, is Canon 4(C), which permits a judge to "make recommendations to public and private fund granting agencies on projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice."

There is no conflict between the activity you propose and Canon 5(G). Although there is a degree of similarity between this advisory activity and the activity that we felt was precluded in our Opinion 89-4 -- appointment to and service on an executive advisory council on alcohol and drug policy -- that situation, unlike yours, involved an appointment to a government committee with a policy mandate broader than that connoted by the terms "legal system" and "the administration of justice."

The Committee sees in the canons of judicial ethics no obstacle to your accepting the offer, within the stricture that the teaching activity be compatible with full performance of your judicial activities. Any compensation that you may receive for your labors in this work should, of course, be reasonable in amount and be reported as extra-judicial compensation, all in accordance with the requirements of Canon 6(A) and (C).

Contact   for CJE Opinion No. 97-9

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