Entering practice of law after leaving office; taking leave of absence to practice law.

November 8, 1995

Opinion 95-7

Dear:

This is in response to your letter to the Committee dated September 19, 1995. You are the first assistant clerk of the   Court. You seek the Committee's opinion on the following questions:

  1. What restrictions or limitations under the Canons of the Clerk's Code of Professional Responsibility are placed on a Clerk or Assistant Clerk leaving office to engage in the private practice of law?
  2. May such Clerk or Assistant Clerk immediately engage in the practice of law in his or her former court?
  3. May a Clerk or Assistant Clerk take a leave of absence to practice law?

Unlike the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts contains no provisions governing a clerk-magistrate's conduct after he or she has left office. Therefore, in response to questions 1 and 2, there are no restrictions or limitations in the Code, in terms of time or otherwise, on a Clerk or Assistant Clerk engaging in the private practice of law after leaving office.

With respect to question 3 , whether or not a clerk may take a leave of absence is a managerial decision to be determined by the appropriate court managers. It is the opinion of the Committee, however, that the provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility govern a Clerk-Magistrate's conduct while he or she is on leave of absence. This interpretation is consistent with the Code's goal of contributing "to the preservation of public confidence in the integrity, impartiality and independence of the courts." See Canon 1.
Under this interpretation, a Clerk-Magistrate, even while on leave of absence, would be required to comply with the provision in Canon 3 that states that "[a] Clerk-Magistrate shall not engage in the practice of law."