Related to:

Opinion Opinion 94-4

Date: 03/29/1994
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Attending political fund-raising event.

Dear Clerk:

         This letter is to confirm the advice which was given you orally by the Secretary of the Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts. On Tuesday morning, March 8, 1994, you telephoned the Secretary seeking the advice of the Advisory Committee on the following situation.

         You are an assistant clerk in the District Court. Your uncle had recently purchased six tickets to a fundraiser event for Governor Weld. The fundraiser was to be the "kick off" event at which the Governor would formally announce his candidacy for the upcoming gubernatorial election. The event would be held at the Park Plaza hotel in Boston on Wednesday, March 9, 1994. Your uncle had offered you and your wife two of the tickets to the event. You called to ask the Committee's opinion as to whether your attendance at the event would violate any of the provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts. Because the event would be held the next day, you required an immediate response. With the approval of the chairperson of the Committee, as required by the Rules of the Advisory Committee (Rule 5, Emergency Opinions), the Secretary called you that afternoon to advise you that your attendance at the fundraiser would be in conflict with the Code of Professional Responsibility.

         The members of the Advisory Committee agree with the advice you were given on an emergency basis. Canon 6 of the Code, which addresses political activity, requires that clerk magistrates, other than elected clerk magistrates, refrain from political activity and enumerates several types of political conduct which are specifically proscribed. Paragraph (2) of this canon provides that clerk magistrates shall not "make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office." In a prior opinion (90-1 , copy enclosed) the Committee noted that attendance by a clerk magistrate at a political fundraiser is subject to the restrictions contained in paragraph (2). The opinion states that attendance at dances, testimonial dinners or other social events where some fundraising may occur must be weighed by each clerk magistrate on the merits of the occasion and the potential message that the attendance will broadcast.

         The event which you described was purely political and held only for the purpose of raising funds. In these circumstances, it is the opinion of the members that your attendance at the event would be the type of political activity and public endorsement that is proscribed by Canon 6.



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