90 N.J.L.J. 361
June 1, 1967
Attorney - Police Officer
Effect of Retirement from Public Employment
The inquirer presents the following facts: He has been a
member of the police department of a New Jersey municipality for 21
years and presently holds the rank of lieutenant in said police
department; he was recently admitted to the bar of the State of New
Jersey; he is about to become associated with a law firm in a
municipality other than where he was employed as a police officer
but within the same county; while engaged in the pursuit of law
with the law firm he will be on leave of absence from the police
department and probably will resign if the association works out.
The question presented is: May the law firm handle a criminal case in the municipality where one member of the firm is a police officer on leave of absence from the police department?
It is the opinion of the Committee that neither the inquirer nor the firm with which he becomes associated may handle any criminal cases arising in the municipality in which the inquirer is a police officer on leave of absence.
Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 36 directly prohibits an attorney from accepting employment in any matter which he has investigated or passed upon while employed in public office or employ. ABA Comm. on Professional Ethics and Grievances, Opinion 134 (1935), interprets Canon 36 and extends the prohibition to any matter which originated in the office with which the attorney was connected where he was in a position of confidence and actually knew or had the opportunity to know facts because of his position in said office. Opinion 135 (1935) is to the same effect, and Opinion 134 extends the prohibition of Canon 36 to partners or associates in the same law firm.
It is therefore the opinion of this Committee that as long as the inquirer is connected with the police department of the municipality neither he nor any member of the firm with which he is associated may represent a defendant in defense of any charge arising within that municipality, and that even after the inquirer's retirement neither he nor any member of the firm with which he is associated may represent any defendant in defense of any charge arising within that municipality any time prior to the
complete severance of the inquirer from its police department.