Related to:

Opinion Opinion 2000-1

Date: 01/18/2000
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Serving as master of ceremonies at mayor's inauguration

This letter is in response to your letter of December 16, 1999 requesting advice from the Committee with respect to the following situation. You are an Assistant Clerk at the District Court. You were asked by the mayor of to serve as the master of ceremonies at the mayor's inauguration, to "perform the usual duties of introducing the speakers including the Mayor." You noted that the mayor "is a long time friend with whom I served on the City Council for a number of years." You further stated that you served as the master of ceremonies at the mayor's first inauguration, which was prior to the time you became an Assistant Clerk. Because you required a prompt response, the Secretary of the Committee telephoned you on December 21, 1999 to provide you with the Committee's initial response. By this letter, the Committee confirms the response which was given you by telephone. It is the view of the majority of the Committee that your serving as master of ceremonies at the inauguration would be inappropriate under the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts. Under Canon 6 of the Code, Clerk-Magistrates, other than elected Clerk-Magistrates, are required to refrain from political activity. More particularly, Paragraph 2 of Canon 6 provides that Clerk-Magistrates shall not "make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office". Although the mayor is no longer a candidate for office, your participation as master of ceremonies at the inauguration nonetheless would be a public endorsement of a figure in the political arena, and would be a type of political activity which could imply a linkage between the mayor's office and the court.

In addition to implicating the provisions in Canon 6 concerning political activity, such a connection with the mayor's office could also create an appearance of lack of impartiality which would be inconsistent with the provisions in Canon 4. Canon 4(A) provides that "A Clerk-Magistrate shall not convey the impression that any person is in a special position to influence the Clerk-Magistrate, and the Clerk-Magistrate should discourage others from suggesting that they are in a position to exert such influence." 

For these reasons, it is the opinion of the Committee that your participation in the inauguration is inadvisable.


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