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                                         100 N.J.L.J. 698
                                        August 11, 1977


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Conflict of Interest
Municipal Defender of Police
Officers Private Municipal Practice

    The inquirer is being considered for appointment by a municipal governing body to be the attorney to represent individual police officers who may be defendants in criminal or quasi-criminal matters as a result of actions which occur during the performance of their duties pursuant to N.J.S. 40A:14-155. The appointment would be on a per case basis for a fee to be paid by the municipality. It is significant to note that he would not be representing the police department or required to give advice to the department or in any manner be required to assist the municipality.
    He asks whether he or any member of his firm, if he is so appointed, would thereafter be prohibited from appearing before any municipal body other than the municipal court in the municipality which appoints him. The inquirer's appointment is similar to the
appointment of a municipal public defender. In Opinion 265, 96 N.J.L.J. 1253 (1973), this Committee held that there is no conflict where an attorney is the appointed public defender and represents private clients before the court and other bodies of the same municipality. In such case, the attorney is discharging his duties as public defender and is not representing the municipality and there is no conflict despite the fact he is appointed and paid by the municipality. There is no significant difference between the situation where an attorney is appointed public defender by the municipality and where he is appointed to represent individual police officers since in neither case is he representing the municipality. It would, however, be a potential conflict for him to appear representing a private client in the same municipality which has appointed him to defend its individual police officers for reasons which are readily apparent.
    Therefore, in view of the fact that the inquirer would be representing individuals who happen to be police officers, there is no conflict, real or apparent, in his appearing before municipal bodies other than the municipal court in the municipality which appoints him provided no police officer from that municipality appears as a witness. Opinion 260, 96 N.J.L.J. 1129 (1973).

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