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Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts
Dear Assistant Clerk-Magistrate:
This letter is written in response to your letter of January 6, 2014 in which you seek the Committee’s advice as to whether, as a recently appointed Assistant Clerk-Magistrate, you may serve on the Town of _________ School Committee, to which you were elected in May, 2013 as part of a three year term. You also inquire as to whether you may serve on the Bar Advocates of ___________ County Board of Directors.
As to the first point, it is the Committee's understanding that the town of _______ borders the jurisdiction of the ________ District Court. If the Committee is correct that the residents of ________ are likely to come before the _______ District Court on a regular basis, our Opinion 2008-2 is relevant. In that opinion, we concluded that an Assistant Clerk-Magistrate should not hold both a position as an elected school committee member and the position of Assistant Clerk-Magistrate. We advised the Clerk that "As an elected official, it can be expected that constituents will frequently contact you regarding various issues, and it is likely that some of these constituents will have business before the [name deleted] Court. Municipal decisions on personnel or funding, which you may participate in as city councilor or school committee member, can also be viewed as implicating your impartiality." It was our view in that case that a likelihood of at least the appearance of conflict and partiality would arise if the clerk were to hold the elective office. Although, in your case, the elected position is in a different jurisdiction, given the proximity of ________ to the ________ District Court, if residents of ________ are likely to come before the ________ District Court on a regular basis, we believe similar considerations apply and advise against holding such a position while you serve as an appointed Assistant Clerk-Magistrate.
As to the Bar Advocates of ___________ County Board of Directors we reach a similar conclusion. In Opinion 97-7, this Committee expressed the view that an Assistant Clerk-Magistrate in the County Juvenile Court could not serve on the Board of Directors of the Country Bar Advocates program. The Committee was of the view that the program would conflict with the provision of Canon 5(B)(1) which states that: “(1) a Clerk-Magistrate shall not participate [in civic or charitable activity] 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.”
Christine P. Burak, Secretary