103 N.J.L.J. 173
March 1, 1979
Conflict of Interest
Attorney-Husband of Municipal Court Clerk
This inquiry relates to the propriety of an attorney-husband
appearing before a municipal court where his wife is deputy court
In a prior opinion, Opinion 368, 100 N.J.L.J. 415 (1977), this Committee held that a prosecutor would not automatically be barred
from appearing in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court by the fact that his close relative (mother) was a clerk of that court. We believe, however, that a different result should obtain in the case of an attorney appearing in a municipal court where his close relative is clerk or deputy clerk. A clerk or deputy clerk of a municipal court occupies not merely a ministerial position but performs important functions in that court system, such as completing jurats on complaints, signing arrest warrants, and fixing bail. See N.J.S. 2A.8-27, 28 and R. 7:5-3. The control or influence of such personnel over court calendars is also publicly recognized as involving more than a purely ministerial function. Recognizing this, the Supreme Court, in Municipal Court Bulletin Letter 5/6-77, has barred the appointment or designation of a clerk or deputy clerk of a municipal court where the clerk's spouse is a police officer. In our opinion, the same consideration, which is basically the avoidance of even an appearance of impropriety, operates to bar an attorney from appearing in a municipal court where his spouse is a court clerk or deputy court clerk.