Related to:

Opinion Opinion 95-2

Date: 04/07/1995
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts


This letter is in response to your letters of February 17, 1995 and March 10, 1995 in which you seek the Committee's advice regarding the propriety of your serving as a board member of the Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts (LACCM) while you are the Clerk-Magistrate of the Court.

You indicate in your letter that you were nominated and appointed to serve on the Board by the Worcester County Bar Association. You state that the Board meets approximately six times each year. In your capacity as Clerk-Magistrate, you interact frequently with the other members of the Board and LACCM staff attorneys: while attorney Board members and staff attorneys appear regularly in your court, they do not come before you while you are serving in your magisterial capacities. You advise that if such a situation should occur, you would recuse yourself.

You explain in your request that after reading Opinion 94-6 of this Committee you have some doubts as to whether your continuing as a Board member is permissible under the Clerks' Code of Professional Responsibility.

In Opinion 94-6 , involving a Clerk-Magistrate's participation in bar association activities, the Committee discussed the limitations on a Clerk's ability to participate in civic and charitable activities contained in Canon 5 of the Code. The Committee concluded that these provisions did not preclude the Clerk's participation in various bar association activities because the provisions of Canon 4 (D) were controlling. This Canon states: (D) Activities to Improve the Law. A Clerk-Magistrate may use his or her title to engage in activity to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice...

In the opinion of the Committee, your service as a Board member of LACCM falls within the provisions of Canon 4 (D). The Board's activities are directed to improvements of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. In our view, your involvement with the Board is permissible under the Code.

We draw your attention to the provisions of Canon 4 (E) concerning disqualification. You should comply with this canon in the event that any action by you as Clerk-Magistrate on a matter pending in your court involving fellow Board members or LACCM staff attorneys might raise questions concerning your impartiality.


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