99 N.J.L.J. 1166
December 30, 1976
Practicing before Local Bodies Appointed
by Parent or before Parent Board Member
An attorney inquires whether he or his associate may represent
clients before the local municipal court and local boards where his
father, as mayor, participates in the appointments to these bodies
and sits on the planning board.
The mayor often wields considerable power in economic, as well as political affairs, and stakes are often very high in planning and zoning matters. Success before such boards is sometimes thought to depend upon the support of persons whose influence may affect the board's judgment. And so, an attorney related to a powerful local figure, as many mayors are, must take care to avoid the "appearance of impropriety."
As stated in DR 9-101(C),
A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence improperly or upon irrelevant grounds any tribunal legislative body, or public official.
We have always held that an attorney need not refuse employment because he may have to present his case before a relative. There, it is incumbent upon the relative to remove himself from the deliberations. Opinion 136, 91 N.J.L.J. 749 (1968), and Kremer v. City of Plainfield, 101 N.J. Super. 346 (Law Div. 1968). And compare Opinion 169, 93 N.J.L.J. 17 (1970).
Although care must be taken in dealing with both prospective clients and clients to observe DR 9-101(C), nevertheless, when an attorney's parent is the appointing power or participates in appointments, that relationship alone does not call for an inference of improper influence, and the attorney, or his associates, may appear before the public boards whose members are
appointed by his parent.