The clerk is a judicial officer who must be and must appear to be impartial. She can issue subpoenas, R. 1:9-3, but cannot serve them for any party without violating that rule. Service arrangements in the present case identified the clerk with one party: the State. That is wrong. The clerk must be neutral. In State v. Ruotolo, 52 N.J. 508 (1968) and State v. Perkins 219 N.J. Super. 121 (1987) 529 A.2d 1056 the Court said:
In New Jersey, the municipal court clerk or deputy clerk is completely independent of any agency charged with the apprehension and prosecution of offenders …. this Court has instructed all municipal courts that “no municipal court employee or other employee assigned to serve a municipal court may have any connection with the police department.”Although the clerks and deputy clerks are appointed by the governing authorities, as are most of the municipal court judges, there is no question that the branch of government to which a clerk or deputy clerk is reponsible is the judiciary. As an official of the municipal court, he is as insulated from prosecutorial influence as is the judge of the court. Merely because he does not wear a robe does not detract from the clerk or deputy clerk’s neutrality. [at 512-513; citations omitted]
The New Jersey Municipal Court Manual (January 1983),1 provides:
It is important that law enforcement and police tasks be completely separated from those of the judiciary. It is therefore the policy of the Supreme Court that persons who perform any court duties or functions must not perform any duties or functions for the police and vice versa. The municipal court clerk or any deputy court clerk must be a neutral and detached judicial officer. State v. Ruotolo, 52 N.J. 508 (1968). Thus, each municipal court judge is urged to take the precautions necessary to prevent any false conclusions in the public mind that the court clerk is an adjunct of law enforcement agencies rather than a separate and independent official. [at 6-7]
With regard to the issuance of a warrant, there is no doubt that if a determination of “probable cause” is to have any meaning, it must be made by a neutral and detached court official who is immune from “the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.” Johnson v. United States, supra, 333 U.S., at 14, 68 S.Ct., at 369, 92 L.Ed., at 440.
An official associated in any way with the prosecution of alleged offenders, because of his allegiance to law enforcement, cannot be allowed to be placed in a position requiring the impartial judgment necessary to shield the citizen from unwarranted intrusions into his privacy. See State ex rel. White v. Simpson, 28 Wis.2d 590, 137 N.W.2d 391 (1965), holding that a statute permitting a district attorney to issue an arrest warrant in a paternity suit violated the fourth amendment because the district attorney was not an impartial judicial officer. See also State v. Matthews, 270 N.C. 35, 153 S.E.2d 791 (1967), holding that a police desk officer is not the neutral and detached judicial officer required by the fourth amendment.
In New Jersey, the municipal court clerk or deputy clerk is completely independent of any agency charged with the apprehension and prosecution of offenders. Pursuant to its power as set forth in Art. VI, § 2, par. 3 of the New Jersey Constitution, this Court promulgated R.R. 1:25C restricting the activities of court personnel. By R.R. 1:25C(a) (7), clerks and deputy clerks, as members of the judicial branch of government “shall not hold any elective public office, nor be a candidate therefor, shall not engage in partisan political activity, and shall not, without prior approval of this court, hold any other public office or position.” In furtherance of this rule, this Court has instructed all municipal courts that “no municipal court employee or other employee assigned to serve a municipal court may have any connection *513 with the police department.” Municipal Court Bulletin Letter No. 68, p. 2, September 29, 1961.
Although the clerks and deputy clerks are appointed by the governing authorities, as are most of the municipal court judges, there is no question that the branch of government to which a clerk or deputy clerk is responsible is the judiciary. Cf. In re Mattera, 34 N.J. 259, 266 (1961). As an official of the municipal court, he is as insulated from prosecutorial influence as is the judge of the court. Merely because he does not wear a robe does not detract from the clerk or deputy clerk’s neutrality.
A finding of neutrality, however, goes only part of the way to justify the challenged procedure. Before a deputy clerk is constitutionally permitted to determine whether the facts as alleged by the complainant constitute probable cause that an offense has been committed and that the defendant is the culprit, we must ask: Is the deputy clerk qualified to exercise the necessary judgment? Defendant relies upon the decision of the Supreme Court of Minnesota in State v. Paulick, 277 Minn. 140, 151 N.W.2d 591 (1967), which answered this question in the negative, and held that a statute authorizing clerks and deputy clerks to issue arrest warrants violated the fourth amendment. The court said: “However conscientious and impartial may be the clerk of Hennepin County Municipal Court who supervised the execution of the complaint and issued the warrant on behalf of the village of Minnetonka, his background and experience we can assume are not in the law. It is highly improbable that he was qualified to determine whether the complaint and warrant met constitutional standards.” Id., 277 Minn., at 150, 151 N.W.2d, at 598; cf. Caulk v. Municipal Court for City of Wilmington, Del., 243 A.2d 707 (1968). Contra, Family Finance Corp. of Bayview v. Sniadach, 37 Wis.2d 163, 154 N.W.2d 259 (1968); State v. Van Brocklin, 194 *514 Wis 441, 217 N.W. 277 (1927); Kreulhaus v. City of Birmingham, 164 Ala. 623, 51 So. 297, 26 L.R.A., N.S., 492 (1909).