The Committee on Judicial Ethics is established by SJC Rule 3:11. It is a source of advice for judges, and organizations and associations of judges or lawyers, concerning the requirements of the Code of Judicial Conduct, SJC Rule 3:09.
The Committee renders advisory opinions to judges, persons who have been nominated to be judges, former judges to whom the Code of Judicial Conduct applies, and organizations or associations of judges or lawyers, concerning interpretation of the Code of Judicial Conduct with respect to conduct contemplated by judges. It does not render opinions on hypothetical questions, questions relating solely to past conduct, questions relating to the conduct of persons other than the requestor (except when made by an organization or association of judges and lawyers), or on issues pending before a court, agency, or commission, including the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
The members of the Committee on Judicial Ethics are:
- Hon. Linda Fidnick, Probate & Family Court, Chair
- Hon. Cynthia J. Cohen (Ret.), Appeals Court
- Hon. Angel Kelley, Superior Court
- Professor Renée M. Landers, Suffolk University Law School
- Hon. Janet J. McGuiggan, District Court
Informal Opinions, formal Letter Opinions, and Emergency Letter Opinions may be requested by contacting the Committee's staff counsel. All requests for opinions and advice are kept confidential. A judge who seeks and receives a formal Letter Opinion from the Committee will not be disciplined for conduct undertaken in reasonable reliance on that Letter Opinion. See SJC Rule 3:11 (2)(D)(ii). Although an Informal Opinion does not carry with it protection from discipline, a judge's reliance on such an opinion will be considered a mitigating factor in any disciplinary proceeding. See SJC Rule 3:11 (2)(D)(i).
The Committee's rules, SJC Rule 3:11, deal primarily with the process by which advice is obtained from the Committee. The Committee's Frequently Asked Questions contain answers to many ethics questions that have been answered informally. Formal Letter Opinions are accessible by subject or chronological indexes. In addition, a table of canons and rules cited in the Committee's formal Letter Opinions is available for the current Code, as well as for two prior versions of the Code. Educational and historical information about the current Code, as well as about the Codes that existed prior to January 1, 2016, is also available.