Advisory Opinion No. 96-53

Re: Lloyd R. Gariepy, Esq.

Question Presented

A Woonsocket Municipal Court Judge requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may represent clients in his private law practice before the Woonsocket City Council, the entity that appointed him to his public position.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics does not bar a Municipal Court Judge for the City of Woonsocket, appointed by the City Council, from representing clients before the Woonsocket City Council provided that the case is not related to a matter in which the Woonsocket Municipal Court has jurisdiction pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 45-2-25 or in which the Petitioner was involved as a Judge.

Under the Code of Ethics, the Petitioner, as Municipal Court Judge, may not have an interest or engage in any employment or professional activity which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(a). The Petitioner is also prohibited from using his public position or confidential information received through his position to obtain financial gain, other than that provided by law. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d). The Code also prohibits the Petitioner from representing himself or any other person before the agency of which he is a member or by which he is employed and for one year after leaving the public position. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e)(1), 5(e)(2), and 5 (e)(4).

In a recent advisory opinion, the Commission considered a fairly analogous matter. In A.O. 96-1, the Commission concluded that a Newport Probate Judge could appear and represent clients before the City Council so long as those matters are not related to matters that the petitioner was involved in as a Judge. The Commission found that the mere fact that a public official appears before his or her appointing authority does not constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics without additional evidence implicating the specific prohibitions set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5. Additionally, since the petitioner was not a member or employee of the City or other municipal agency, R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e) did not apply.

Given the Petitioner's representations, provisions of the Code and past advisory opinions, the Commission concludes that the Petitioner may represent clients before the Woonsocket City Council provided that the matters are not within the jurisdiction of the Woonsocket Municipal Court or a matter that the Petitioner was involved in as a Judge.

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