Letter Opinions of the Committee on Judicial Ethics

This index includes all of the advisory opinions issued starting January 1, 2016, by the Committee on Judicial Ethics.

Adoption of the new Code of Judicial Conduct  may render certain opinions decided under the Code as it existed prior to January 1, 2016 no longer valid or appropriate. A judge should not rely on any pre-2016 CJE Advisory Opinion without contacting Supreme Judicial Court Senior Attorney Barbara F. Berenson, counsel to the Committee on Judicial Ethics, at Barbara.Berenson@jud.state.ma.us or 617- 557-1048.

 

Date Number Subject Summary of Letter Opinion
2/16/2016

2016-01

[Modified by CJE
2018-03]

Facebook: Using Social Networking Site
  • Guidelines pertaining to a Judge's use of Facebook, including issues of judicial identity, friending, and unfriending
  • A judge may not be Facebook friends with an attorney who is reasonably likely to appear before that judge
2/24/2016 2016-02 Service on Board of Non-Profit School; Parent Volunteer
  • Judge may serve on Board of non-profit private school, noting certain cautions
  • Judge may serve as admissions ambassador, noting certain cautions
  • Judge may serve as parent volunteer
4/11/2016 2016-03 Practicing in the Federal Courts within Six Months after Retirement
  • Judge may practice in the federal courts within six months of retirement
4/11/2016 2016-04 Donating, Selling, and Exhibiting Photographs
  • Judge may exhibit and sell photographs as an avocation
  • Judge may donate photographs to be exhibited and sold by a law-related non-profit organization where the identify of purchasers will not be shared  with the judge
5/2/2016 2016-05 Serving as a Master within Six Months of Retirement
  • Judge may serve as a master on a pro bono basis within six months of retirement
6/9/2016 2016-06 Speaking at Community Family Day
  • Judge may speak at Community Family Day even though law-enforcement agencies are among the many sponsors of the event
6/28/2016 2016-07 Service as a Trustee
  • Judge may serve as trustee
  • CJE articulates new factors relevant for determining the existence of a close family-like relationship
9/6/2016 2016-08 Linked In: Using Social Networking Site
  • Guidelines pertaining to a Judge's use of Linked In
  • A judge may not have a Linked In connection with an attorney who is reasonably likely to appear before that judge
11/22/2016 2016-09 Twitter: Using Social Networking Site
  • Guidelines pertaining to a Judge's public use of Twitter in the judicial role
  • When a judge posts in the judicial role, the public may perceive the judge's communications to have the imprimatur of the courts
  • Use is generally restricted to educational and informational purposes, although the judge may also include posts relevant to the judge's own characteristics and accomplishments
12/9/2016 2016-10 Political Activity
  • Judge may not participate in Women's March scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. on the day after the Presidential Inauguration and intended to send a message to the new Administration
12/9/2016 2016-11 Disqualification: Judge's Spouse Previously Represented Defendant
  • Judge may not hear a case if the judge's attorney-spouse had any prior involvement with the case, even if a new attorney now represents the defendant
12/9/2016 2016-12 Disqualification: Judge's Spouse is Employed at Agency Serving Litigants 
  •  Judge may hear cases in which the litigant is an individual served by Agency but not directly or indirectly served by the judge's spouse
  • Judge may hear cases in which the litigant is an employee of the Agency but not directly or indirectly supervised by the judge's spouse
12/9/2016 2016-13 Testifying as a Character Witness
  •  Judge may not testify in support of a disbarred attorney at a reinstatement proceeding without being duly summoned
2/21/2016 2017-01 Public Outreach
  • Judges are encouraged to engage in outreach activities designed to assure residents and visitors that Massachusetts judges are committed to the rule of law
  • Judges may respond to comments made by public officials that appear to reflect misconceptions about the role of an independent judiciary or manifest disrespect for the rule of law
6/20/2017 2017-02

Abuse of the Prestige of Judicial Office

  • Abuse as used in Rule 1.3 does not require a bad purpose or bad effect
  • Judge may not participate in University's promotional video series featuring prominent alumni
10/2/2017 2017-03 Service on Governing Board of a Bar Association
  • New judge may complete his term on the governing board of a bar association
  • Judge will have to avoid numerous situations that would appear to a reasonable person to interfere with the obligations of judicial office
10/2/2017 2017-04 Definition of Business Entity 
  • Judge may not perform with a "business band." The Code prohibits employment by any business entity
  • Code prohibits judge from serving as an independent contractor as well as an employee
  • Judge may play with a cover band that does not perform for pay
10/2/2017 2017-05 Definition of Economic Interest
  • Definition of "mutual or common investment fund" includes Exchange Traded Funds
  • Definition of "mutual or common investment fund" excludes managed funds
  • An ownership interest of one percent or less of the legal or equitable interest of a party with a fair market value of $5000 or less is de minimis
3/14/2018 2018-01

Working for a Closely-Hold Family Business

  • The Code prohibits a judge from being an employee or a volunteer for a business closely held by the judge or members of the judge's family
 
3/21/2018 2018-02

Communications with Successor Counsel

  • Once a judge has assumed judicial office, conversations with successor counsel will be limited to historical facts not readily apparent from the file and similar matters of clarification
  • A judge's continuing duty of loyalty to former clients includes an obligation to keep confidential the client's communications within the course of the representation.
5/18/2018 2018-03 Disclosure of Former Facebook Friendship
  • When a lawyer who was a former Facebook friend appears before a judge, disclosure is not presumptively required
  • The judge should exercise discretion based on all the facts to decide whether to disclose

Feedback

Did you find what you were looking for on this webpage? * required
We use your feedback to help us improve this site but we are not able to respond directly. Please do not include personal or contact information. If you need a response, please locate the contact information elsewhere on this page or in the footer.
We use your feedback to help us improve this site but we are not able to respond directly. Please do not include personal or contact information. If you need a response, please locate the contact information elsewhere on this page or in the footer.

If you need to report child abuse, any other kind of abuse, or need urgent assistance, please click here.

Tell us what you think