Link to original WordPerfect Document

                                         104 N.J.L.J. 425
                                        November 15, 1979


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court

OPINION 438    

Conflict of Interest - Representing
Planning Board and Realty Investor

    The inquirer states that for several years he has represented a client whose family has, through personal ownership, partnerships or corporate entities, extensive land holdings and, in particular owns one large tract of land in a municipality which has asked the inquirer to become counsel for the planning board. The inquirer states that he has disclosed this information to the board. The land is in agricultural use, and the client has no plans for development in the foreseeable future, but the purpose of the equation and retention is eventual development. Two questions are raised.
    (1) May the attorney represent the planning board in view of the substantial tract ownership by his client which is being held for future but not immediate development?
    (2) If he can accept the position, what is the extent of his duties of disclosure or disqualification? Counsel states that his firm has agreed to represent the planning board pending the decision by this Committee.
    As the Supreme Court stated in the matter of In the Matter of A. and B. Attorneys-Law, 44 N.J. 331, 334 (1965):

        Nonetheless the subject of land development is one in which the likelihood of transactions with a municipality and the room for public misunderstanding are so great that a member of the bar should not represent a developer operating in a municipality in which the member of the bar is the municipal attorney or the holder of any other municipal office of apparent influence.

See also our Opinion 82, 88 N.J.L.J. 581 (1965). Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 6 referred to in that opinion is now included in DR 5-1-1 through 105. We see no objection to counsel's presently representing the planning board but the potential for future conflicts is apparent. Cf. In re Dolan, 76 N.J. 1 (1978). Various actions of the municipal governing board could be taken while counsel represents the planning board which could affect the owner of the tract in question. Such a situation would result in counsel not only being precluded from representing the planning board but the owner of the land as well.

* * *

This archive is a service of Rutgers University School of Law - Camden