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                                         102 N.J.L.J. 451
                                        November 16, 1978


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Conflict of Interest
Attorney Real Estate Salesman
Representing Buyer of Seller - P.B.A.
Attorney Defending in Municipal Court


    The inquiry attorney is, also a licensed real estate salesman. He asks two questions: if he were to sell a house, could he represent either the buyer or seller, or if a fellow salesman in the same office were to sell a house, could he represent either the buyer or seller?
    This Committee in Opinion 312, 98 N.J.L.J. 646, (1975), discussed the issues where the attorney was the husband of the salesman. That opinion directed a negate result where the attorney was the broker, citing ABA Comm. on Professional Ethic Informal Opinion 775 (1965). The prohibition against an attorney who is also a broker should extend to the attorney who is also a real estate salesman employed by a broker.
    Where a fellow salesman sells the house, the real estate agency has a financial interest in the completion of the transaction and it would appear that DR 5-101, which relates to the refusal of employment where the interests of the lawyer may impair his independent professional judgment, would prohibit the acceptance of employment by the lawyer in this case. The disciplinary rule makes an exception where there is a consent of the client after full disclosure. The factual situation as to the interest of the attorney in the successful completion of the sale and the communication to the brokerage office would be major considerations in determining whether or not the attorney might ethically accept employment on behalf of either buyer or seller.


    The same inquiring attorney represents the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association in his municipality. He recognizes the prohibition against representing defendants in the municipal court where members of the PBA local are complainants (our Opinion 113, 90 N.J.L.J. 473, (1967), but he asks about the cases where the complainant is not a PBA member and there are no PBA members involved. DR 9-101 refers to avoiding the appearance of impropriety. In the mind of the public, the PBA is identified with policemen in general and the defense of cases by the attorney for the PBA in which policemen are complainants may raise the appearance of impropriety involved in Opinion 113.

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