122 N.J.L.J. 1406
December 1, 1988
Conflict of Interest:
Aide to State Assemblyman
The Inquirer has been offered an assignment to serve as
Legislative Aide for a New Jersey State Assemblyman. The duties of
this part-time position will include analysis of proposed
legislation, periodic Assembly appearances, conferences with
constituent lobbyists and public speaking engagements on behalf of
the Assemblyman. Compensation for these services will be
appropriated from the Assemblyman's payroll account. The funding
for this account originates from the State Treasury. Three
inquiries are presented:
A) Will the candidate's acceptance impose any ethical prohibitions upon his personal ability to practice, appear before and represent private clients before State agencies and/or county and/or municipal bodies?
B) Will the assignment preclude the firm from engaging in practice within the jurisdiction of the civil courts, State and Federal, and/or before Municipal, Compensation, or Administrative Law Courts, and/or State, County or Municipal authorities?
C) Assuming arguendo that formal appearances before State agencies would be proscribed, would correspondence and communications with these entities be permitted?
The Inquirer's law firm makes appearances before official Boards including Municipal and County Planning Boards and Boards of Adjustment as well as State, Federal and Municipal Courts and the Compensation Court. They also make occasional appearances before State Agencies and the Office of Administrative Law.
The Inquirer agrees that as a Legislative Aide he is a State Employee even though he is not acting in the status of an attorney. He is paid with State funds. He says he would not act as legal counsel to the Assembly or the Senate nor the State of New Jersey. The Legislative Conflicts of Interest Law, N.J.S.A. 52:13D-12(a), states that it is essential that public officers and employees should avoid conduct which is in violation of their public trust or which creates a justifiable impression among the public that such trust is being violated. Subsection (c) provides that the activities and conduct of public officials should not be unduly circumscribed.
N.J.S.A. 52:13D-16 prohibits any special State officer or employee from appearing on behalf of any person or party, other than the State, before the particular office, bureau, board, council, commission, authority, agency, fund or system in which such special State Official or employee holds office or employment. Subsection (c) delineates the State boards and offices before which such State officers or employees may appear including courts of record "except where the state is an adverse party ...."
N.J.S.A. 52:13D-23(e) is a Code of Ethics for officers and employees of a State Agency and Subsection (f) makes it applicable to members of the legislature. This section obviously applies to the Inquirer.