Related to:
Opinion

Opinion Opinion 94-12

Date: 11/15/1994
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Serving as Co-Chair of Annual Fund and on Board of Directors for YMCA

Dear:

In your letter of November 3, 1994, you request an opinion from the Advisory Committee on the following situation. You are the Clerk Magistrate of the District Court. You have been a long time member of the Board of Directors of the YMCA and have been asked to serve as the Co-Chair of the organization's Annual Fund Drive. You enclosed with your letter a draft of the Annual Fund solicitation letter, which would identify you by the title "Annual Fund Co-Chair, Community Division". You request the Committee's opinion as to your ethical responsibilities.

Paragraph (B) of Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts addresses the subject of a Clerk-Magistrate's involvement with civic and charitable activities. Such participation is generally permissible as long as the activities "do not reflect adversely on the Clerk-Magistrate's impartiality or interfere with the performance of his or her official duties. . ." This paragraph also states that a Clerk-Magistrate may serve as "an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization..." subject to the following limitations:

"(1) 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.

(2) 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... A Clerk-Magistrate may attend but, except for an elected Clerk-Magistrate, shall not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund raising event. . ."

In the opinion of the Committee, provided that you comply with the provisions of Canon 5 set forth above, and the requirement of Canon 3 that Clerk-Magistrates devote the entire time during normal court hours to the duties of their office, the Code would not prohibit you from serving as Co-Chair of the fund raising event. Should the YMCA, or a significant number of its members, appear before the court in which you work, the Committee advises you to consult and comply with the provisions of Canon 4 (E) on Disqualification.

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