Chief Justice Margaret Marshall Violated the Code of Judicial Conduct

Date: May 7, 1999
Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association
Annual Fundraising Dinner
Keynote Speaker:
Margaret Marshall
(then Associate Justice, SJC)

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, the prime mover behind the same-sex marriage ruling and author of the official decision, seriously violated the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct. She was the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for a major homosexual legal advocacy group prior to hearing the Goodridge case.  At that event she publicly advocated for extensions of homosexual rights.

According to published reports by the event's organizers, Marshall noted that "open advocacy for equal rights on behalf of people who have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation has become a powerful piece of the general move for civil liberties of all people." [direct quote from Marshall]  The Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association (MLGBA) also wrote on their website that "The Justice encouraged those lawyers in attendance to pay attention to the growing body of gay-friendly international jurisprudence."

The Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct clearly states that judges may not participate in fundraising events, even for non-profit organizations. Furthermore, judges are required to disqualify themselves whenever they have an acknowledged bias on an issue.

To quote Canon 5, Section B of the Code of Judicial Conduct (CJC, effective 1998):

Civic and Charitable Activities. A judge should not solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civil organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of his office for that purpose … He should not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund raising events, but he may attend such events.

From Canon 2, Section B:

[A judge should not] convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence him.

From Canon 3, Section B(5):

A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.

Additionally, Marshall was in violation of the later version of the Code in effect at the time of the Goodridge ruling (November 18, 2003), which she herself approved. Since she clearly had a publicly acknowledged bias in the case, she should have disqualified herself from hearing the case. As the commentary to Section 3D of the updated Code (effective October 10/1/03) outlines:

Judges are required by this Section to participate actively in maintaining and preserving the integrity of the judicial system…. Other Code violations by a judge … require appropriate action by the judge who has knowledge of them. Examples include but are not limited to: speaking or being the guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising event…

From Section 3E(1), Disqualification:

"A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

From the Commentary of the above section:

"A more than de minimis interest … may include non-financial interests, as an example, support by the judge of an organization advocating a particular position, where the interests of the organization could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.

The obvious question: Why is this not being examined by the legislature or the Boston media?  Why not even a single word?  The public deserves some answers.

Excerpts from Code of Judicial Conduct:

SJC Code of Conduct

SJC Code of Conduct Revised 10/1/03