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Opinion

Opinion Opinion 2002-1

Date: 10/23/2002
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Attendance at political fundraiser.

Dear:

You have requested an opinion from this Committee as to whether your attendance at the event described below runs afoul of Canon 6 (or any other Canon) of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of Courts. Your letter states that:

"The front cover of the invitation announces this event as, 'A Special Celebration.  The inside page of the invitation states, 'Please join us in celebrating one year in the House of Representatives for State Representative (his name) with special guest Congressman William Delahunt.  The date, time, and place of the event is stated, followed by, 'Suggested donation $50.00 per person. The invitation is signed, 'Paid for by the committee to elect (his name)--(another name), Treasurer. Another page on the invitation contains a list of the names of 63 individuals, families, or businesses. There is no heading above their names."

Under Canon 6 of the Code, Clerk-Magistrates, other than elected Clerk-Magistrates, are required to refrain from involvement in political activity. In the view of the members of the Committee, the event described in your letter bears all the indicia of a political fundraiser and thus would fall within the restrictions on political activity contained in Canon 6. It can be argued that your participation in the event would be a public endorsement of a candidate, a type of political activity specifically prohibited by Canon 6 (2). The suggested donation and sponsorship by the committee to elect are factors contributing to the Committee's determination that your attendance at this event would be a violation of Canon 6 of the Code. Determination of the propriety of your participation in other functions would depend on the specific facts regarding the nature of the function. The rules of the Committee preclude the Committee from rendering an opinion on hypothetical questions. See Rule 3, Rules of Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for Clerks of Court. Opinion 90-1 , dealing with a series of questions regarding political activity, is attached for your information.

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