ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 7-2010
RE: Propriety of a judicial law clerk hosting a jewelry party and/or becoming a jewelry salesperson.
An appellate judge inquires about the propriety of the judge's law clerk hosting a jewelry party and/or selling jewelry. The judge's law clerk intends to host a trunk show in her home, where she may benefit in the form of free jewelry if guests buy something. The law clerk has also expressed interest in selling the product herself. If the law clerk began selling the jewelry, she could potentially sell it to attorneys who have appeared or may appear before the court. The judge inquires into the propriety of the law clerk's actions.
A judicial law clerk may hosting a jewelry party and/or become a jewelry salesperson as long as she does not let such activity: interfere with the proper performance of her official duties; exploit her official position; or involve her in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court she serves.
Rule 506, entitled Code of Conduct for Staff Attorneys and Law Clerks, governs this situation. Specifically, Canon 5(C) states that a law clerk should "refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to detract from the dignity of [her] office, interfere with the proper performance of [her] official duties, exploit [her] official position, or involve [her] in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court [she] serves."
Here, the judicial law clerk's intended activity in hosting a trunk show or selling jewelry does not, in and of itself, detract from the dignity of the office. However, the law clerk must be careful in ensuring that the time commitment involved will not interfere with her official duties. In addition, the law clerk must not reference her position as a judicial law clerk in the invitations to the party nor should she publicize the event while acting in her official capacity. Finally, as long as the lawyers who appear before the court do not make frequent purchases, the law clerk will not be engaged in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court she serves.
This Committee offers no opinion as to whether the judge, as the law clerk's employer, should or should not give permission for the law clerk to engage in other employment.