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Opinion

Opinion Opinion 2000-3

Date: 04/05/2000
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Implications of candidacy for register of probate while serving as first assistant register.

Dear

This is in response to your letter of March 21, 2000 in which you request an opinion on whether there would be a conflict of interest in your continuing employment as first assistant register if you become a candidate for register of probate in the court where you work. You note that the register has announced his retirement effective March 31, 2000. Section 8.802(F) of the Trial Court Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual requires that you request the opinion of this Committee.

As we have recently stated in Opinion No. 2000-2, we view the role of this Committee as limited to providing advice on the implications that the Code of Professional Responsibility would have on your candidacy. In this regard, we restate the advice we have given on prior occasions.

"We draw your attention to the following provisions of the Code. Under Canon 3 a Clerk-Magistrate is required to devote the entire time during normal court hours to the duties of the office. Canon 4 requires a Clerk-Magistrate to perform the duties of the office impartially and in a manner 'that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judicial branch.' In addition to being impartial, a Clerk-Magistrate must also convey the appearance of impartiality. (See Canon 4(A).) Also, Canon 5(A) prohibits a Clerk-Magistrate from engaging 'in activities which might detract from the dignity of the office of Clerk-Magistrate or interfere with the performance of the duties of the office.'" Opinion 95-5.

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