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Opinion Opinion 2011-1

Date: 07/26/2011
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Attending Brother's Campaign Kickoff Event in Another State

Dear _______:

This letter is to confirm the advice you were given via telephone by the Secretary to the Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts. On May 2, 2011, you requested an opinion from the committee on whether, consistent with the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts (Code), you could attend a campaign kick-off event. You provided the committee with the following details. You are the Clerk-Magistrate of the _______ District Court. Your brother is running for a congressional seat in [another state] and would be announcing his candidacy at an event in that state. You inquired whether your attendance at the event when he announced his candidacy would be consistent with the Code. You noted that you were interested in simply attending the event and likely would be standing behind your brother with other family members.  There is no contribution or fee required to attend the event.  You would not hold signs, wear campaign buttons or have any formal role.

On May 5, 2011, the Secretary telephoned you to report that the members she contacted were of the view that your attendance at the event, in the limited circumstances you described, would not be prohibited by the Code. This letter confirms the emergency advice you were given by the Secretary.  Canon 6 of the Code prohibits Clerks, except for elected clerks, from engaging in political activity. It is intended to preserve the independence and impartiality that underlie all the canons. In the view of the members of the committee, your attending an out of state event to support your family member does not run afoul of the provisions of this canon. Your attendance at the event in these limited circumstances, with no further engagement in campaign activities, such as speaking, holding signs or wearing campaign articles is not prohibited by Canon 6.


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