Related to:

Opinion Opinion 96-8

Date: 10/26/1996
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Appointment to local Human Rights Commission


In your letter of August 6, 1996, you seek the Committee's advice with respect to the following situation. You are the First Assistant Clerk-Magistrate at the Court. You have been appointed by the Board of Selectmen to become a charter member of the Human Rights Commission. You state that "charter members will decide, among other things, the commission's goals, makeup, and long-term mission." You request this Committee's opinion as to whether your participation as a charter member would conflict with the provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts.

In the opinion of the members of this Committee, your serving as charter member of the Human Rights Commission is permissible under the Code. Canon 5(E) addresses the issue of appointments and provides that:

Except for activities to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, as permitted by Canon 4(D), a Clerk-Magistrate shall not accept appointment within the geographical jurisdiction of the court in which he or she serves to a governmental committee, commission or other governmental position if there is a substantial likelihood that matters involving that committee, commission or other governmental position will come before the Clerk-Magistrate or the court in which the Clerk-Magistrate serves.

From the description contained in your letter, it does not appear that there is a substantial likelihood that matters involving the Human Rights Commission will come before the District Court. The Code would therefore present no barrier to your participation. If, however, matters relating to activities of the Human Rights Commission come before the Court, you may need to reassess the propriety of your continued membership in light of the language in Canon 5(E).


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