101 N.J.L.J. 417
May 4, 1978
Conflict of Interest
County Advisory Board Member
in County-Related Practice
The inquirer was appointed for a one-year term as a member of
the advisory board of a county fire fighters and police training
academy by resolution of the board of freeholders. The position is
nonpaying, nonpolitical, advisory in nature, wherein the board
makes recommendations which are not of necessity binding.
Would such appointment prohibit the attorney from (1) defending individuals in criminal matters, (2) appearing before any county boards or courts, (3) maintaining an action against the county.
This precise question has not been previously decided. However, in Opinion 28, 87 N.J.L.J. 106 (1964), a mayor formed a committee of business and professional men primarily for the purpose of attracting new small industries to the municipality. Its function would be to explore methods by which this could be done and to advise the mayor according. The committee had no official status or recognition under statute; nor was it created by ordinance. One of the lawyer members of the committee questioned whether he would be free to accept legal matters involving the town. We held that he could do so, and said: A lawyer's experience and broad contacts render him especially equipped to serve on public bodies and to furnish to the public the benefit of his experience, skill and training. A municipality should not be deprived of this gratuitous advice for the public welfare. Under the facts submitted there is no apparent conflict between the world of this unofficial advisory body and the legal matters affecting the community, and therefore the attorney serving on such a committee would be able to accept matters involving the town.
The principles upon which Opinion 28 was decided are applicable to the present case, and the inquirer is not prohibited from representing clients before the courts, in criminal or civil
matters, or before any county boards, or from maintaining an action against the county. To the same general effect, see Opinion 102, 90 N.J.L.J. 1 (1967), which involved the appointment by the mayor of an advisory committee to make a charter revision study. He appointed three former mayors, one of whom was a lawyer. The committee had no official status, no specific statutory authority and was not created by ordinance. We held that the attorney would not be prevented from representing private litigants before the
city's municipal court, municipal boards or agencies.