102 N.J.L.J. 205
August 31, 1978
Conflict of Interest
Former Attorney for Police Officers
Representing Others in Municipal Court
This inquirer relates to the propriety of an attorney
representing in a municipal court an individual charged with
driving under the influence of alcohol N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. The
attorney has represented on five different occasions five of the
individual police officers of the same municipality out of a total
police force of 26. On two occasions, the attorney represented the
police officer who is the complaining witness in the pending case.
His most recent representation of this officer concluded in May
1978, and in fact, the bill for services rendered to that police
officer still remains unpaid.
In our opinion the representation of the defendant in the pending case by the attorney is improper. The reasons are basically set forth in our prior Opinion 113, 90 N.J.L.J. 473 (1967) dealing with an attorney proposing to represent the PBA in a municipality while also representing lay defendants in matters before the municipal court of that municipality. In that case we stated:
The real ethical problem is created once the attorney representing the PBA and its members, directly or indirectly, appears in Court representing other defendants on complaints made by the police officer, or complaints where the police officer is called as a witness for the complainant. In the minds of some, and outspoken by others, will always be the belief that success in the trial was achieved by unfair help and assistance from the police officer and the PBA.
The rationale of that opinion applies with equal, if not greater, force to this situation where the attorney in question, while not representing the P.B.A., has specifically represented the complaining witness and, with some regularity, has represented other patrolmen of the municipality. See also, our Opinion 377, 100 N.J.L.J. 698 (1977), and State v. Galati, 64 N.J. 572 (1974).