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Opinion

Opinion Opinion 2003-1

Date: 02/12/2003
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Attendance at governor's inauguration

Dear

You have requested an advisory opinion from this Committee as to whether your attendance at the inauguration and festivities for Governor Romney on January 2, 2003 runs afoul of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of Court (the "Code"). It is the opinion of the Committee that your participation in the above-described event would not be in violation of the Code. This letter will confirm the verbal advice previously provided to you through the Secretary of the Committee.

In general, a clerk-magistrate, other than an elected clerk magistrate, shall refrain from political activity. See Canon 6 of the Code. However, a public, post-election inauguration is, in our estimation, a ceremonial, as opposed to political, event and attendance does not appear to constitute an endorsement of a candidate since the election has concluded. Moreover, the festivities do not appear to be a politically sponsored event at which a prohibited activity, such as fundraising, would occur.

The Advisory Committee has previously opined as to various political activities. For example, see Opinion 95-4 in which the Committee concluded that attendance at a private dinner for a then Lt. Governor who was seeking to become the governor would constitute impermissible political activity because it was a private event sponsored by a political party that appeared to be in the nature of an early campaign event.

We urge you to be aware, generally, of the prohibition against political activity under Canon 6, as well as the obligation to maintain the impartiality of the judicial branch.

We hope that this letter is of assistance to you.

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