State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 06-04
A judicial officer may not permit a part-time municipal court clerk to also serve as the police department evidence clerk and the animal control officer. In order to preserve the public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, it is important that the public perceive that there is a clear separation between the court function (i.e., the judge and the clerk) and the executive function (i.e., the police and prosecution). Allowing the part-time municipal court clerk to have these two additional police functions causes the impartiality and independence of the judiciary to be called into question. The municipal police department will have cases prosecuted in this court on a daily basis. The adequacy and integrity of police department evidence control is sometimes a contested issue in such cases and, at the least, is often a background issue. Also, there is the risk that the public will perceive that the fact that the clerk is performing two functions may have a chilling effect on the defense contesting the police department evidence control system. Additionally, any violation of a city ordinance involving animal control will also be filed in the municipal court, which would have the disruptive effect of requiring the municipal court judge to recuse him/herself. Thus, permitting a part-time municipal court clerk to serve in these outside capacities undermines the public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
On further consideration of these policy concerns, Opinion 02-4 is hereby withdrawn.
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