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                                         86 N.J.L.J. 734
                                        December 26, 1963


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Conflict of Interest
Municipal Attorneys

    An attorney appointed as municipal prosecutor performs duties on behalf of the municipality limited to the prosecution of traffic
violations and other criminal matters in the municipal court. He asks whether (1) he may represent applicants before the governing body and other municipal boards, and (2) whether he may represent employees of the municipality in workmen's compensation cases in which the municipality appears as respondent.

Question No 1

    The issue here raised has already been decided in our Opinions 4 and 5, 86 N.J.L.J. 357, 361 (1963), and especially 8, 86 N.J.L.J. 718 (1963). These opinions examine in some detail the ethical question here presented and conclude that the proposed practice is not permissible.
Question No. 2

    The second question must also be answered in the negative. It is improper for a member of the bar at the same time to act in the interest of a client and against the same client, even though the areas of representation are entirely distinct. This is no less true where the client is a public body. The loyalty which an attorney owes a client should not be subjected to the weakening temptation inherent in such a situation. Quite obviously the profession as a whole would suffer in the eyes of the public were this practice to be condoned. Furthermore, there is a real danger that the familiarity with a client's affairs resulting from the representation of a client in a particular matter may impart to the
attorney information which he may use to advantage in the action against the same client and which he would not have come by except for the first representation. This conclusion finds particular support in ABA Comm. on Professional Ethics, Decision 289 (ABA, Opinions of Committee (1957) Appendix A, p. 643), which states succinctly, "A lawyer who is an employee should not take employee cases against the company." The same opinion is to be found in Drinker, Legal Ethics 298 (1953). The author's comment appears at page 111. Reference may also be had to the second part of our Opinion 4, supra, doling with a closely related question.

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