91 N.J.L.J. 805
December 12, 1968
Conflict of Interest
Defending Police Officer
A complaint has been filed against a police officer charging
him with assault and battery during the course of an arrest. The
municipality has a law department consisting of a city attorney,
two assistants, and a special counsel. The latter serves as
municipal prosecutor. Complainant's attorney has objected to any
member of the city's law department, including its special counsel,
serving as counsel for the accused police officer. Inquiry has been
made whether the objection is valid.
We are of the opinion that any member of the city's law department who prosecutes cases in the municipal court should not be permitted to defend a police officer in the same court.
In our Opinion 104, 90 N.J.L.J. 49 (1967), we dealt with a similar problem and held that a municipal prosecutor could not prosecute a complaint against a civilian defendant and in a consolidated trial appear in defense of a police officer charged with an assault arising out of the same incident. We noted that the municipality is permitted to retain independent counsel to defend the police officer.