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Opinion Opinion 92-8

Date: 10/21/1992
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Contacting attorneys to advertise preparation of tax returns.

Dear Clerk:

In your letter of September 21, 1992, you request an opinion from this Committee as to whether the Code of Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts would allow you to "contact attorneys in County in writing to express my interest in preparing income tax returns and to accept their referrals." You are the First Assistant Clerk-Magistrate of the . You also prepare income tax returns for H&R Block, Inc. to supplement your salary.

It is the opinion of the Committee that it would be a violation of Canon 5(C)(1) of the Code if you were to write letters to attorneys within County. This Canon provides, in part, that " A Clerk-Magistrate shall refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to . . . 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 Committee's view, there is a distinction between writing to lawyers within   County, who would likely come before the AND writing to lawyers outside of   , who would not be as likely to come before the Court in which you are serving. If you were to write to attorneys outside of County, you would be prohibited from identifying the position you hold at the Court. Canon 4(C) states that "A Clerk-Magistrate shall not use the influence of the office to promote his or her business interests."

A further concern of the Committee is the letterhead which you used to request your opinion, which identifies you as an "attorney at law". It is the Committee's opinion that any letters you do send to attorneys outside of County should not utilize a letterhead that states "attorney at law" next to your name. Canon 3 of the Code expressly prohibits Clerk-Magistrates from engaging in the practice of law.


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