Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:11: Committee on Judicial Ethics.
(Effective January 1, 2009)
(1) There shall be a Committee on Judicial Ethics (Committee) consisting of five persons appointed by this court, at least three of whom shall be judges or former judges. No Justice currently serving on this court shall be a member of the Committee. The members of the Committee shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties.
When the Committee is first selected, the members shall be appointed respectively to five, four, three, two and one year terms. On the expiration of the term of office of a member, a successor shall be appointed for a term of five years. Members may be reappointed to the Committee, but no member shall be appointed to more than two successive full terms.
(2) The Committee shall render advisory opinions and may provide informal advice with respect to the interpretation of rules of court relating to the ethical and professional conduct of judges. Except for emergency opinions, the opinions of the Committee shall be in writing and shall be rendered only in response to a written request, signed by the judge requesting the opinion. The written request shall set forth fully all facts bearing on the question or questions on which the judge requests advice. The Committee shall not render opinions on hypothetical questions or on issues pending before a court, agency, or commission, including the Judicial Conduct Commission. The Committee may decline to render an opinion for any reasons which it deems sufficient.
(3) Each written opinion shall contain a statement of the facts and a discussion of the application of the relevant rules to the facts. The Committee may publish its opinions but the name of the judge requesting the opinion and any other identifying information shall not be included in a published opinion unless the judge consents to such inclusion. If the judge did not omit or misstate any material fact in his request for an opinion, the judge may rely on a written opinion until and unless revised or revoked. This court shall not subject a judge to discipline where the conduct of the judge at issue in a proceeding was undertaken in reasonable reliance on that opinion. Informal advice provided by the Committee shall not provide the protection from discipline described in this section.
(4) This court shall designate one of the members of the Committee as Chairperson and another as Vice Chairperson. A quorum of the Committee shall consist of three members. The Committee may render written opinions only by an affirmative vote of at least three members. By rule the Committee may delegate particular types of matters, including the issuance of oral opinions on emergency matters, to a lesser number of members or to the secretary to the Committee. This court shall designate one of its employees to serve as the secretary and principal administrative officer of the Committee.
(5) The Committee shall make rules, subject to the approval of this court, implementing this rule. In January of each year, the Committee shall submit to the court a report of its activities, together with any recommendations.
(6) Except to the extent the Committee elects to publish an opinion in the manner prescribed in paragraph (3), all requests for advice made to the committee under this rule, and all of the committee's proceedings thereon, shall be strictly confidential unless disclosure is required by court order or unless the Committee determines by majority vote of all members that disclosure is necessary to prevent or remedy a serious injury to person, property or the administration of justice. To facilitate transitions in Committee membership, the court may invite a newly appointed member whose term has not officially begun to observe Committee business for a period not to exceed three months prior to the commencement of the member's term. A member whose term has expired shall remain on the Committee pending appointment of his or her successor, and until the successor's term begins.
Amended December 17, 2008, effective January 1, 2009.