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Taking a step toward the mainstream, New Jersey’s judiciary is easing restraints on outside employment by law clerks. The changes to Canon 5 of the Code of Conduct for Judiciary Employees, effective Feb. 2 and announced Feb. 17, make it easier for clerks to take on teaching, lecturing and writing jobs and lift the ban on other outside employment. Until the amendments, clerks who wanted to teach, lecture or write had to obtain approval. Now, they only have to provide the same 10 days’ written notice as other employees under Canon 5B.15. The notice must specify the employer’s name and address, nature and hours of the work, and whether a license is needed. The notice must be filed with the law clerk’s judge and the administrative director of the courts and the chief justice, presiding appellate judge, assignment judge or presiding Tax Court judge. Yearly updates must also be filed. Work other than writing, lecturing or teaching — once prohibited — is now allowed if permission is granted. No reason for the change was given, but court spokeswoman Winnie Comfort says that through the years, some clerks had sought a rule relaxation. The Supreme Court sought input from assignment judges, who recommended the change. From 1993 to 2001, the committee that oversees law clerk employment made about 20 decisions. It refused to allow limousine driving, teaching water polo, waiting on tables, weekend nursing in an intensive care unit, working as a security guard, serving on a town drug awareness council and assisting a judge’s outside writing. Teaching an SAT preparation course was denied because it was not law-related, while authoring a newspaper column on legal issues was denied because it could reflect adversely on the judiciary’s independence and impartiality. A few clerks got the go-ahead: one to write freelance music reviews (so long as they did not implicate legal issues or reflect badly on the judiciary), another to continue pre-clerkship military duties as a reservist. The changes do not affect Rule 1:15-2, which states that clerks or lawyers regularly assigned to a court cannot practice in any court. The Code of Conduct, adopted in 1993, also limits political activity and sets standards for avoiding nepotism, conflicts and impropriety. It was last revised in 2002, when Canon 8 was added to restrict court employees’ acceptance of awards, honors and testimonials. The Advisory Committee on Outside Activities of Judiciary Employees interprets the code, issues advisory opinions and hears appeals from adverse decisions. It is supposed to report periodically to the court but has done so only once, in 1995, covering the period from January 1994 through June 1995. Former clerk Michael Fekete says the relatively low salary might be an issue for someone taking a clerkship, especially someone with student loans to repay, but he never thought about taking a second job and wasn’t aware of clerks who did. Fekete, who approves of the requirement for two layers of permission for jobs other than lecturing, teaching and writing, is an associate in the Voorhees office of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll and was a clerk to Camden County Judge Raymond Drozdowski and U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Rosen. “Nobody ever talked about [outside work],” says a former clerk for an appeals judge, who declines to be identified. And clerking, which she describes as “a job and half” where “you are always at the judge’s beck and call,” did not leave much time for a second job. New Jersey has 478 law clerks working for 438 judges. Salaries range from $35,000 for tax, civil, criminal and family court posts to $38,500 for general equity, $42,000 for the Appellate Division clerks and $46,000 for the Supreme Court. In setting boundaries on outside work, the court system must balance ethics concerns against the need to recruit the most able law school graduates to work for wages well below the private sector. “If the job is too restrictive, then top law graduates might not find it appealing enough,” says Professor Howard Erichson of Seton Hall University School of Law. “On the other hand, the concern for the judiciary is always protecting against any conflicts of interest and any appearance that the judiciary is anything less than completely independent and unbiased.” New Jersey apparently remains one of the stricter court systems. Most other states allow outside employment by clerks so long as they can still do their job and there is no conflict, according to Cynthia Gray, director of the Center for Judicial Ethics at the American Judicature Society in Des Moines, Iowa. The National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., does not have statistics on how many state courts have codes of conduct for court employees. But a 1995 survey done for the California courts found that only seven, including California and New York, had ethics rules geared to court staff, and 17 others, including Pennsylvania, expected to implement them within the next few years. In three states, a single code covered all court employees, judges and nonjudges, and in two other states, a uniform single set of rules covered all state employees. Federal clerks may speak, write, lecture and teach. They may not practice law except for routine legal matters for themselves, their families or pro bono clients. The work must be done outside working hours, must not create an appearance of impropriety and must not interfere with clerking responsibilities. But federal clerks have less reason to moonlight. Those in New Jersey earn $41,143 to $83,841, depending on law school performance, post-law school work experience and bar memberships, says Karen Redmond, a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

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