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104 N.J.L.J. 449
November 22, 1979
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
Appointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey
Juvenile Justice Clinic-Public
Defender's Unit - Prosecutor's Unit in One
Law School Center Under One Clinical Director
Inquiry has been made by the Director of the Juvenile Justice
Clinic at Seton Hall Law School concerning two questions posed by
the following statement of facts: JUSTICE CLINIC - PROSECUTOR'S UNIT
"In 1973 a Juvenile Justice Clinic was established at the
Seton Hall Law Center. This clinic consisted, at that time, of a
Public Defender's Unit, which provided services to indigents
appearing before the Juvenile Courts of Essex County. The Clinic
received authorization from the New Jersey Supreme Court to operate
in conjunction with the Essex County Public Defender's Office, and
pursuant to this authorization has been handling detention
hearings, probable cause hearings, pleas, trials, and dispositions
for the past five years. Recently, the Public Defender's Clinic
was invited to expand its services into another country, and as a
result it has begun limited operations in Middlesex."
In the fall of 1978, through the efforts of both the Essex
County Prosecutor's Office and the Seton Hall Law Center, a second
clinical unit involving the prosecutorial function was added to the
Juvenile Justice Clinic of Seton Hall. The purpose of this program
is to allow students the opportunity to gain courtroom opinions in
the juvenile justice system by participating in detention and
probable cause hearings, pleas, trials, and dispositions. Prior to
beginning operation the Prosecutor's unit received authorization
from the New Jersey Supreme Court in addition to the approval of
the presiding judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
and the Essex County Prosecutor.
PHYSICAL SITUS, STAFFING, ETC.
Because of the operation of both the Public Defender's Unit
and the Prosecutor's Unit in the Juvenile Courts of Essex County,
it became apparent that students from the Seton Hall Law Center
would often find themselves on opposite sides of a juvenile hearing
or trial. Accordingly, steps were taken to insure that the two
clinical programs would remain distinct in their operations:
1) Separate and secure offices were established for each
2) Each unit has its own files and office equipment.
3) Each unit has its own secretary.
4) The students in each program are different.
5) No student interchange is allowed between the clinics.
6) Each student has been warned of the possibility of a
conflict of interest, and has been instructed not to discuss cases
outside of court with students from the other units without an
7) Each of the units has its own Attorney of Record who
serves as the Director of Trial Practice and is responsible for the
day-to-day administration of cases in the clinic.
8) Each unit is funded by a separate S.L.E.P.A. grant.
9) The classroom component is separate for each of the units,
although both units will together participate in a moot court
Supervising the entire Juvenile Justice Clinical Program for
the Seton Hall Law Center is a Professor of Law. The function of
this Clinical Director is to serve as the coordinator of the
academic program, to administer the grants, and to act as a liaison
between the clinic and various interested groups (i.e., Law Center
Faculty and Administration, Seton Hall University Administration,
Essex County Public Defender's Office, Essex County Prosecutor's
Office, etc.). The Clinical Director has no control over the
assignment or handling of cases and has no access to the files of
either unit. His primary concerns are funding, grant
administration, curriculum development and student development and
evaluation. The respective Directors of Trial Practice have
responsibility for the day-to-day activities of the two programs,
and report directly to their superiors in the Public Defender's or
As to Question No. 1: Is there a conflict of interest posed
by having a Prosecutor's Juvenile Justice Unit and a Public
Defender's Juvenile Justice Unit in the same institution - namely
that of the Seton Hall Law Center?
This Committee had occasion to render an opinion with
reference to a substantially similar inquiry concerning "Merger of
City and County Legal Services Projects Representing Opposing
Parties." See our Opinion 241, 95 N.J.L.J. 717 (1972). The facts
in that opinion indicate that there had existed two entirely
separate legal services projects, viz., the Newark Legal Services
Project and the Essex County Legal Services Corporation, and that
the two units, although separately administered, were reorganized
to constitute a single nonprofit corporation known as the Essex-
Newark Legal Services Project. The newly-formed corporation was
governed by a single board of trustees which had the duty of hiring
the Project Administrator, raising funds and establishing general
policies. Prior to reorganization, the two units had separately
handled matters for opposing clients. After reorganization the new
corporation sought an advisory opinion on the propriety of the two
units continuing to represent opposing parties in a given case.
This Committee held in part:
We anticipate no conflict of interest and therefore
hold that an attorney from one project may represent one
party to a cause while an attorney from the other project
can represent an opposing party... The facts in the
present inquiry indicate that such component will have
its own administrator, will be a separate division and
will be completely autonomous. There will be no sharing
of office space and no possible access to files of one
division by members of the others.
We hold that, upon statement of facts submitted, there is no
conflict of interest with reference to Inquiry No. 1.
As to Question No. 2: Is there a conflict in having one
Clinical Director with ultimate responsibility for both the
Prosecutor's Unit and the Public Defender's Unit?
The factual situation presented indicates that a Professor of
Law at Seton Hall Law School has been designed as the Juvenile
Justice Clinical Director with ultimate responsibility for both the
Prosecutor's Unit and the Public Defender's Unit. It has been
represented that the Clinical Director exercises no control over
the assignment or handling of cases, nor does he have access to the
office or files of either unit. He serves as a coordinator of the
academic program and acts as liaison between the clinic and other
interested and involved parties (i.e., Law Center Faculty and
Administration, Essex County Public Defender's Office and Essex
County Prosecutor's Office). We are advised that the Clinical
Director is primarily concerned with setting general policy in the
areas of curriculum development, funding, grant administration and
student development and evaluation. The Clinical Director
apparently serves, we are informed, "only as a general overseer of
the entire Juvenile Justice Program and is not involved in the
handling of cases for either unit." The inquirer argues, and we
believe correctly, that the position of Clinical Director is
analogous to that of the board of trustees of the nonprofit
corporation in Opinion 241.
We are satisfied that, under the facts and circumstances
submitted to us, there is no conflict in having one Clinical
Director with purely administrative responsibility for both the
Prosecutor's Unit and the Public Defender's Unit, who remains
altogether removed from the cases to the end that client's
confidences and secrets are preserved.
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