Contrary to the position in the Jan. 10 editorial “Dougan’s free legal services represent a conflict of interest,” no ethical rules were violated by Judge Raymond G. Dougan in accepting legal services from attorney Michael Keating. Based on an opinion rendered by the Committee for Judicial Ethics in response to a similar scenario, it is clearly acceptable for a judge to receive a gift from counsel, provided that counsel has not appeared and does not appear before that judge. Judges are prohibited from accepting such complimentary services only if the lawyer has appeared or will appear before that judge.
Judge Dougan reported the complimentary legal fees, and Keating has not appeared before the judge. Keating is a highly reputable lawyer with Boston’s Foley Hoag. With nothing to gain but the preservation of judicial independence on behalf of the public and the bar, Keating, through his representation of Dougan, was crucial in preserving the confidentiality of judicial notes and deliberations. Without such confidentiality, judicial independence is seriously compromised.
The Massachusetts Bar Association submitted an amicus brief in support of this confidentiality, and the Supreme Judicial Court ruled to preserve this confidentiality. Keating is one of many attorneys who would willingly provide complimentary services in support of preserving judicial independence in Massachusetts.