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Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts
This letter is in response to your letter of April 13, 1992 seeking advice from the Advisory Committee.
In your letter you sought the Committee's opinion as to whether there is a conflict with your "being a stockholder, director, treasurer, or clerk and receiving a salary and/or unearned income" from a corporation established to provide a private court system in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
It is the opinion of the Committee that your holding any of the positions which you inquire about in your letter, that of a stockholder, director, treasurer or clerk, and your receiving a salary and/or unearned income from this corporation would be a violation of both Canons 4(c) and S(c)(l) of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts.
Canon 4 (c) provides:
Business Activities "A Clerk-Magistrate shall not enter into any business relationship which reasonably might create a conflict with the proper performance of his or her official duty or detract from the dignity of the office. A Clerk-Magistrate shall not use the influence of the office to promote his or her business interests or those of others."
Canon 5(c) (1) provides, in part:
Financial Activities " . . . A Clerk-Magistrate shall refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on the Clerk-Magistrate's impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of the position of Clerk-Magistrate, or involve the Clerk-Magistrate in transactions with lawyers or other persons likely to come before the court in which the Clerk- Magistrate is serving."
In the members' opinion, even if you did not receive a salary, your participation in the private court venture would inevitably reflect on your impartiality and involve you with lawyers and others likely to come before the court. Because you would be in a position to refer people to the private court, it would be difficult to avoid a conflict, or the appearance of a conflict of interest. Therefore, it is the opinion of the Committee that Canons 4(c) and 5 (c ) prohibit the activity in which you wish to engage.