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Opinion Opinion 2003-3

Date: 04/09/2003
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Serving as member of school council

Dear Assistant Clerk:In your letter of March 5, 2003, you requested the Committee's opinion on whether you may serve as a member of the school council at the elementary school that your children attend. The school is located in the same town as the court where you are an assistant clerk magistrate. The school council, which meets approximately once per month, "is responsible for planning improvement to the school, setting a plan to implement said improvement and formulating goals for the school to achieve with an emphasis on family participation." The council also reviews the school budget.

Canon 5(B) of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts addresses a Clerk-Magistrate's involvement in civic and charitable activities. It provides that:

"A Clerk-Magistrate may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely on the Clerk-Magistrate's impartiality or interfere with the performance of his or her official duties. A Clerk-Magistrate may serve as an officer, director, trustee, or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members..."

As this Committee noted in Opinion 97-8 , "[u]nder Canon 5(B), Clerk-Magistrates may generally participate in civic and charitable activities as long as there is not a substantial likelihood that the organization or its members will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the Clerk-Magistrate." See Canon 5(B)(1).

From the information contained in your letter, it appears that it would be permissible under the Code for you to serve on the school council. As you describe the duties of the council, your service as a member would not reflect adversely on your impartiality or interfere with your role as an assistant clerk. Should the school council or its members appear before you in your role as assistant clerk, you should consult and comply with the provisions of Canon 4(E) on disqualification.


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