December 6, 2007
Digest: In the absence of any legal incompatibility in the positions, a town justice may allow a full-time bookkeeper, office manager and receptionist for the town to also serve as town court clerk.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.3(C)(2); 101.1; Opinions 07-85; 03-22; 98-59 (Vol. XVII); 97-107 (Vol. XVI); 96-64 (Vol. XIV); 90-37 (Vol. V).
A town justice asks whether a full-time town employee who is a bookkeeper, office manager, and receptionist in the town office may also serve as clerk of the town court.
A judge must act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]) and shall require his or her staff to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[C]).
A town court clerk’s outside employment cannot impair the town justice’s ability to fulfill the obligations of judicial office (see Opinions 07-85; 97-107 [Vol. XVI]). Nor can the town court clerk’s outside employment pose a risk of eroding “public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary” (Opinion 98-59 [Vol. XVII], quoting 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]); see also 96-64 [Vol. XIV]). Taking these concerns into consideration, the Committee has previously concluded that a town justice may also serve as the bookkeeper for the town supervisor (see Opinions 03-22 and 90-37 [Vol. V]). A fortiori, the same is also true for a town court clerk. In the present inquiry, therefore, in the absence of any legal incompatibility in the positions, the town justice may allow a full-time town employee who is a bookkeeper, office manager, and receptionist in the town office to also serve as the town court clerk.
We decline to respond to the inquiring judge’s remaining questions because they are administrative and/or legal in nature, and therefore beyond the Committee’s jurisdiction (see 22 NYCRR 101.1).