Related to:

Opinion Opinion 96-3

Date: 05/06/1996
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Ethical Opinions for Clerks of the Courts

Serving as member of ward committee; conflict with spouse's duties as constable


This letter is in response to your inquiry to the Advisory Committee on Ethical Opinions for the Clerks of Court dated March 25, 1996. In this letter you state you have just been appointed to the position of Assistant Clerk-Magistrate of the Court, and you pose two questions for our consideration.

1. You state that you are a member of a ward committee for a political party, and you question whether you are permitted to continue in this position. It is not clear what your duties are as a ward member, but the position is so visible in the political cosmos that it would seem that it is in direct conflict with the requirement in Canon 6 that a Clerk-Magistrate "refrain from political activity . . ."

2. Question 2 poses a question regarding your husband's duties as a constable, and whether there could be some conflict in his serving process that originates from your court.

First, we hasten to inform you that our opinions cover only your conduct, not his.

Secondly, you quote Canon 4(C), "A Clerk-Magistrate shall not use the influence of the office to promote his or her business interests or those of others." We would also call your attention to Canon 4(A) that states, "A Clerk-Magistrate shall not convey the impression that any person is in a special position to influence the Clerk-Magistrate, and the Clerk-Magistrate should discourage others from suggesting that they are in a position to exert such influence."

In light of the Canons, you should assure yourself that business is not being referred or directed to your husband by the Clerk's office. In addition, if a particular party, for example, because of repeat business, were a source of substantial revenue to your husband's business, it would be wise to recuse yourself from passing on any matters in an adjudicative capacity that involve that party. If none of your duties would involve you in proceedings that could be viewed as rewarding a user of your husband's services, then the Canons would be satisfied.


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