State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 02-23
Is it permissible for a court clerk to work part-time as a paralegal for a city prosecutor who files the city cases in one courthouse of the county’s east division while that person is also employed as a court clerk in another courthouse of the county’s east division?
The county district court has been reduced from nine to three divisions. One of the court clerks in one of the former divisions works part-time for a city prosecutor whose cases were formerly filed in another division. Because of the merger, these two divisions are now part of a new east division.
The court clerk’s primary duties for the city prosecutor include but are not limited to: typing complaints, making files, typing witness lists, typing motions, ordering driving records from DOL, discovery for both criminal and infraction cases, ordering infraction and monthly calendars for court clerks, calling officers and other witnesses on infractions, reviewing court dockets for review hearings and other miscellaneous matters.
The court clerk has access to the judicial information system, makes docket entries in cases, has access to DOL records, can review dockets of any case in the judicial information system and performs all other duties of a court clerk. Each clerk should be cross-trained to perform all duties of a court clerk regardless of their current assignment.
CJC Canon 1 and 2(A) provide in part that judges should participate in maintaining high standards of conduct so that the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary will be preserved. Canon 2(B) provides in part that judges shall avoid the appearance of impropriety in their activities and should not permit others to convey the impression they are in a position to influence the judge. Finally, Canon 3(B)(2) provides that judges should require their staff and court officials subject to their direction and control to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to them.
A judicial officer may not permit a court clerk to engage in outside employment when that employment would be for a city prosecutor who files cases in one of the divisions of the county district court. It does not matter if those cases are filed in the division in which the court clerk is employed or in another division of that county district court. Because the court employee has access to the judicial information system and other court information, it creates an appearance of partiality toward the city attorney’s office and undermines the integrity and public confidence in the independence of the judiciary.
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