Becoming trustee for charter school outside jurisdiction

Opinion 2006-4

Dear Assistant Clerk:

This is in reply to your email of June 27, 2006 requesting an opinion from the Committee on the following situation. You are an Assistant Clerk-Magistrate in the District Court. You have been invited to become a trustee for a new charter school in , which is outside of the jurisdiction of the court where you work.

You state in your letter that the student body at the charter school will consist of high school students from three communities. Currently, the students from the community where the court where you work is located make up a small percentage of the overall student population (12 of 77 students). You assume that this percentage of students from that community will continue to remain on the lower side because of transportation issues and other factors. You state that a position as trustee does not involve direct contact with students, and further note that a majority of the student body at the charter school are juveniles under the age of seventeen and would therefore not be involved in district court matters.

Paragraph (B) of Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts addresses the subject of a Clerk-Magistrate's involvement with civic and charitable activities. Such participation is generally permissible as long as the activities "do not reflect adversely on the Clerk-Magistrate's impartiality or interfere with the performance of his or her official duties." Canon 5(B) specifically states that a Clerk-Magistrate may serve as "an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization..." subject to the following limitations:

"(1) A Clerk-Magistrate shall not participate if there is a substantial likelihood that the organization, or a significant number of members of the organization, will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the Clerk-Magistrate or the court in which the Clerk-Magistrate serves.
(2) A Clerk-Magistrate may solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, but shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of the office for that purpose or solicit his or her staff for that purpose... A Clerk-Magistrate may attend but, except for an elected Clerk-Magistrate, shall not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund raising event. . ."

In the opinion of the Committee, provided that you comply with the provisions of Canon 5 set forth above, and the requirement of Canon 3 that Clerk-Magistrates devote the entire time during normal court hours to the duties of their office, the Code would not prohibit you from serving as a trustee of the charter school. Should the school, or a significant number of its students, employees or officials, appear before the court in which you work, the Committee advises you to consult and comply with the provisions of Canon 4 (E) on Disqualification.