103 N.J.L.J. 389
May 3, 1979
Conflict of Interest
Suing County -
Tenant-Former Associate, County Freeholder
We are asked whether a firm may continue representing
compensation claimants against a county after a former associate is
elected a freeholder of that county and rents a room sharing a
library, common entrance and waiting room with that firm for his
own practice, including work for the firm on a cash or time basis
in noncompensation matters. It is our opinion that the proposed arrangement would create a conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety.
The inquirer states that the county is "self-insured" as to compensation claims. Whether or not it is insured is immaterial.
Absent sharing of other facilities, the common use of a library by attorneys does not make them "office associates," Opinion 417, 103 N.J.L.J. 133 (1979). We have held that where an
attorney shares a common entrance and waiting room he becomes an "office associate" of the firm renting the suite to him. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the tenant is a former associate who continues to work for his old firm, albeit on a case or time basis excluding him from matters affecting the county represented by the freeholder ascot does not cure the potential for generating an appearance of impropriety. See our Opinion 22, 87 N.J.L.J. 13 (1964); Opinion 74, 88 N.J.L.J. 357 (1965); Opinion 202, 94 N.J.L.J. 309 (1971); Opinion 406, 102 N.J.L.J. 353, (1978); and cf., Opinion 185, 93 N.J.L.J. 505 (1970).