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Opinion Opinion 2003-9

Date: 11/25/2003
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Volunteering for Democratic Convention

Dear Assistant Clerk:

This is in response to your request of November 5, 2003 for an opinion from the Committee. You are an Assistant Clerk at the Court. You request an opinion on whether a Clerk Magistrate or an Assistant Clerk Magistrate can volunteer for Boston 2004, Inc., the official host committee for the 2004 Democratic National Convention. You note that Boston 2004, Inc. is currently looking for volunteers in preparation for the convention, and that it appears that the volunteers will engage in a variety of tasks. You attached to your request an email from Boston 2004, Inc. that discusses applying to serve as a volunteer.

Because the Committee is authorized only to interpret the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts, we construe your request as inquiring whether it would be permissible under that Code for Clerks and Assistant Clerks to volunteer for Boston 2004, Inc. Although a precise answer to that inquiry would depend on the nature of the volunteer activity, we offer some general comments.

The website for Boston 2004, Inc.,, sets forth its mission statement as follows:

"Boston 2004, Inc., is the single purpose, not-for-profit, non-partisan organizing entity for the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Our mission is to ensure that the city of Boston provides the environment and infrastructure necessary to host an inclusive, participatory, safe, and successful convention, while simultaneously elevating the visibility and stature of Boston as a premier convention city. It is also our intention to use this as an opportunity to highlight Boston's enriching and diverse cultural, ethnic and social landscape."

Given that Boston 2004 represents itself to be a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, in our view, your participation as a volunteer would not be prohibited per se.(1) With respect to particular volunteer tasks, you must be cognizant that under Canon 6 of the Code, Clerk-Magistrates, except for elected Clerks, are required to refrain from political activity, particularly the four types of political activity that are specifically prohibited. See Canon 6, Political Activity and Elective Office. In any volunteer service, you would need to abide by the limitations posed by Canon 6, including the prohibition on speech making, public endorsements, and the solicitation of funds. Other Canons may also be relevant, and in performing any volunteer activities you would need to be mindful of the principles of impartiality and the appearance of impartiality that underlie Canons 4 and 5. Finally, any volunteer service you provide would need to comply with the requirement in Canon 3 that Clerks must devote the entire time during court hours to the duties of their office.

(1) If this description of Boston 2004 were not accurate, our opinion might be different.


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