Stephanie Phillips and Alex Pepper, two graduating students in Judge Cratsley’s Judicial Process in Community Courts Clinic and Seminar, have written their seminar papers in association with an on-going project of the Supreme Judicial Court examining revisions to the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct. The SJC Committee to Study the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct is chaired by the Honorable Cynthia Cohen, HLS ’75, of the Appeals Court and staffed by Senior Attorney Barbara Berenson, HLS ’84.
Graduating students Stephanie Phillips and Alex Pepper worked with Barbara Berenson to select paper topics that matched issues of interest to the committee’s work. As a result, Stephanie wrote about the ethical issues for judges when they receive free or discounted legal services for defending themselves before the Commission on Judicial Conduct (JNC). This issue recently came into the public spotlight after the Boston Globe revealed that a judge, accused before the JNC of systemic bias against the Commonwealth in criminal cases, disclosed that a law firm had provided him with pro bono legal services for his ultimately successful defense. Stephanie explored the multiple issues of judicial ethics involved as well as a variety of solutions found in other states, such as full disclosure, gift limits, and state reimbursement for accused judges.
“I hope that our research will be of assistance to Ms. Berenson’s committee reviewing the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct. The course, paired with our clinical placements in local courts, provided an invaluable learning experience for me,” said Stephanie.
Alex, on the other hand, tackled the structure and workings of state judicial ethics advisory boards which exist through the U.S. Every state now has some type of informal procedure for obtaining ethical advice. Because some committee members have expressed an interest in understanding variations among judicial ethics advisory boards, Alex’s paper examined the size of such committees, their rules, their composition and their source of authority ending with “Lessons for Massachusetts”.
“The opportunity to research questions of current relevance while having access to those most interested in the material is wonderful. It made my research more interesting to conduct and, I hope, more useful in results,” said Alex.
“Having thoughtful law students drill down into complex issues is very helpful,” said Berenson. “I am very grateful to Judge Cratsley and his students for their willingness to engage with these important topics.”