Related to:
Opinion

Opinion Opinion 2013-8

Date: 12/02/2013
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Sitting as director on Board of Directors for a national non-profit organization

Dear Assistant Clerk :

In your letter dated October 21, 2013, you indicate that you are an Assistant Clerk Magistrate in the ------------- District Court. You ask whether you may sit as a director on the Board of Directors for Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. Your letter indicates that this is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals impacted by addiction and mental health challenges.

As noted in our opinion 94-5 dated May 10, 1994, Canon 5 (B) provides that: "A Clerk-Magistrate may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely on the Clerk-Magistrate's impartiality or interfere with the performance of his or her official duties. A Clerk-Magistrate may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members." This is subject to further limitations as set forth in Canon 5(B) (1) and (2). Canon 5 (B) (1) provides:

"A Clerk-Magistrate shall not participate if there is a substantial likelihood that the organization, or a significant number of members of the organization, will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the Clerk-Magistrate or the court in which the Clerk-Magistrate serves." Canon (5) (B) (2) provides: "A Clerk-Magistrate may solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, but shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of the office for that purpose or solicit his or her staff for that purpose." These provisions deal with potential conflict of interest due to the appearance of members of the organization before your court and fund raising activities.

As long as members of the organization do not come before you or the Court where you serve and as long as fund raising, if any, for the organization is within the parameters of Canon 5 (B) (2), it would appear that there would be no conflict under the Code for you to serve on the Board of Directors for Spectrum Health Systems, Inc.

Sincerely,
Christine P. Burak, Secretary

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