Opinion 21-93

June 28, 2021

Dear :


   This responds to your inquiry (21-93) asking if you, a town justice, may allow the town’s Chief Constable to provide court security in the town court and to prosecute town ordinance violations “while also acting as a Court Officer.”


   We have said a town justice may not permit a town constable, who is also the court officer in the judge’s court, to act simultaneously as prosecutor in cases involving violations of town ordinances (see Opinion 91-54; accord Opinions 18-92; 09-152).


   In addition, although a justice may ordinarily permit police officers to provide court security (see Opinions 98-148; 20-66), we have said a town justice may not permit the town’s Police Chief to perform this function (see Opinion 96-133 [“That position carries with it the exercise of authority, supervision and control over all subordinate police officers, including those who are appearing in the court in the same jurisdiction served by the police department. The Chief of Police is likely to be regarded by the public as the official representative of the police department.”]).


   We likewise believe that it is improper for the town’s Chief Constable to provide court security for the town court under the circumstances described here.


   As for whether police officers who are serving as court security in the justice courts may wear their police uniforms, we believe this is primarily a matter of police department policy, rather than a matter of judicial ethics.


   We enclose Opinions 20-66; 18-92; 09-152; 98-148; 96-133; and 91-54 for your convenience.


                                               Very truly yours,

                                               Margaret Walsh

                                               Supreme Court Justice

                                               Committee Co-Chair


                                               Lillian Wan

                                               Acting Supreme Court Justice

                                               Committee Co-Chair