93 N.J.L.J. 125
February 26, 1970
Conflict of Interest
Municipal Attorney - Foreclosing
Individual's Tax Sale Certificate
Inquiry has been made as to whether it would be proper for an
attorney to foreclose tax sale certificates on behalf of private
clients in the municipality which he serves as municipal attorney.
This inquiry raises a question which has received our frequent and consistent treatment in earlier opinions. A number of situations might arise where the municipal attorney would be called on to render advice to the municipality, and particularly the tax collector, in connection with the foreclosure of tax sale certificates. That he might at the same time be representing private clients presents an obvious potential conflict of interests.
The general problem presented by this inquiry was analyzed at length in our Opinion 4, 86 N.J.L.J. 357, 361 (1963) at page 361:
In a broad sense an attorney representing a municipality or any of its agencies has as his "client" the entire municipality, and he should avoid any retainers from others which may place him in a position where he appears to be either seeking relief or favor from the municipality or any of its agencies for a private client or oppose action by the municipality or its agencies on behalf of a private client. If he did so, it would be inevitable that, if he were successful, the losing litigant, or the public in general, would be troubled by suspicion that his success in the matter was attributable to improprieties and that his position or influence as a municipal attorney might have furthered the cause of the private client.
See also Opinions 137, 91 N.J.L.J. 797 (1968); 123, 91 N.J.L.J. 97 (1968); 106, 90 N.J.L.J. 97 (1967); 79, 88 N.J.L.J. 460 (1965); 65, 87 N.J.L.J. 810 (1964); 24, 87 N.J.L.J. 19 (1964); 15, 18, 19, 20, 86 N.J.L.J. 734 (1963); 11, 86 N.J.L.J. 621 (1963); 8, 86 N.J.L.J. 718 (1963); 5, 86 N.J.L.J. 361 (1963).
It is our conclusion that the potential conflict inherent in this situation would make such representation improper.