District Court assistant clerk serving on finance committee of home town where town is within jurisdiction of court.

November 28, 2000

Opinion 2000-7


This is in response to your letter of October 18, 2000 requesting an opinion of the Advisory Committee concerning the possibility of your serving on the Finance Committee for your home town. You state in your letter that your town is within the jurisdictional area of the District Court where you serve as an Assistant Clerk. As explained to you by the chair, your request was not received by the Committee until November 2nd.

The Committee is of the opinion that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit you from serving on the Finance Committee subject to the requisites of Canon 5(E) set forth below. Having said this the Committee feels strongly that you should proceed with caution because of the fact that you will be serving within the jurisdictional area of the District Court you serve. Paragraph (E) of Canon 5 provides:

". . . [A] Clerk-Magistrate shall not accept appointment within the geographical jurisdiction of the court in which he or she serves to a governmental committee, commission or other governmental position if there is a substantial likelihood that matters involving that committee, commission or other governmental position will come before the Clerk-Magistrate or the court in which the Clerk-Magistrate serves . . ."

Your letter indicates that you have anticipated one potential conflict and would refrain from participating in the police budget. Other matters before the Finance Committee that come before the Court, including any matters in which the town is a party or an interested party, would require your recusal. You may need to reassess the propriety of your continued membership in light of the above and the language of Canon 5(E).

Another concern of the Committee is that the code emphasizes the importance of impartiality. In Opinion No. 95-1 the committee stated that . . .

"The appearance of impartiality is as important as actual impartiality in promotion of public trust and confidence in the courts. Canon 4(B) states that 'A Clerk-Magistrate shall not engage in outside activities which would cast doubt on his or her capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before the Clerk-Magistrate in any official capacity.'"

As always all Clerk-Magistrates must comply with Canon 4(E) which deals with disqualification in all proceedings "in which the Clerk-Magistrate's impartiality might reasonably be questioned."