100 N.J.L.J. 698
August 11, 1977
School Board Solicitor
The solicitor of the board of education of a municipality
having a type II school district and the municipal magistrate of
the same municipality have been discussing the possibility of
sharing office space in a building owned by one of them. The exact
nature of the proposed relationship (e.g, tenant, partner, office
associate) is not disclosed. They inquire:
Is it a violation of ethics for two lawyers, one being the solicitor for the board of education and the other being the municipal magistrate, to form an association or share office space in the same building?
We find nothing unethical in the proposed relationship, per se. However, once the association has been established, the provisions of R. l:l5-l(c), 1:16 4; and 1:15 5 will be applicable.
These rules give rise to the collateral consideration as to whether in a municipality having a type II school district a partner or associate of the municipal magistrate for that municipality may represent the board of education in view of the proscription in R. 1:16-1(c) that a municipal magistrate shall not act "as attorney for any agency or officer" of the municipality wherein he serves as magistrate. We have followed Botkin v. Westwood, 62 N.J. Super. 416, 427 (App. Div. 1968), which held that the legislative intention is clear beyond a question that a Chapter 7 school district (now classified as a type II school district, N.J. 18A:9-1 et seq.) shall be completely independent and free from any control or intrusion by the municipal governing body in the affairs committed to its sole sphere. See also this Committee's Opinion 44, 87 N.J.L.J. 297 (1964), and Opinion 41, 87 N.J.L.J. 285 (1964). A type II board of education elected by the people is clearly autonomous and therefore is not "an agency of the municipality" within the purview of R. 1:16-1(c).
If the solicitor of the board of education of a type II school district and the magistrate of the same municipality become associated in the practice of law, the solicitor's representation of the board of education may continue in the absence of possible conflicts that can arise as noted in Botkin v. Westwood, supra.