88 N.J.L.J. 460
July 15, 1965
Conflict of Interest
Housing Authority Attorney
The inquirer is an attorney for a municipal housing authority.
He asks if he may appear before the municipal court, board of
adjustment, planning board, township committee or other municipal
agencies in his private practice, representing the interests of
private clients who have no connection whatsoever with the housing
authority or its activity.
The attorney who submits the question was appointed under the "Local Housing Authorities Law," N.J.S.A. 55:14A-1 et seq. N.J.S.A. 55:14A-4 provides:
...Such authority shall constitute an agency and instrumentality of the municipality or county creating it. The authority shall consist of six members who shall be appointed and hold office for the terms as hereinafter provided. The governing body shall appoint five commissioners of the authority. (Emphasis added)
In Taylor v. Leonard, 30 N.J. Super. 116, 119 (Ch. Div. 1954), the court specifically states that the housing authority is a municipal agency.
Our attention has been called to the fact that the attorney for the housing authority is appointed by the commissioners of the authority and not by the governing body of the municipality. This, in our opinion, is unimportant in deciding the question submitted. The fact remains that the housing authority is created by the municipality.
In N.J. Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 64, 87 N.J.L.J. 801 (1964), this Committee held that an attorney serving as a member of the municipal parking authority could not properly represent clients in the municipal court of the same municipality, or appear before other governmental agencies thereof. We recognized that a municipal parking authority is largely autonomous in nature, but, nevertheless, the authority is by statute "an agency and instrumentality of the municipality or county creating it." In that opinion we stated:
Just as in the case of a municipal attorney representing a private client before a municipal agency, the losing litigant or the public in general will be troubled by the suspicion that his adversaries success in the matter was attributable to his position or influence as a municipal official. See N.J. Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 4, 86 N.J.L.J. 357 (1963); Opinion 37, 87 N.J.L.J. 190 (1964); Opinion 52, 87 N.J.L.J. 610 (1964); and the other opinions cited therein.
It is our opinion, therefore, that the attorney for a municipal housing authority cannot appear before the municipal court, board of adjustment, planning board, township committee or other municipal bodies in the municipality which is served by the public housing authority.