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                                         108 N.J.L.J. 525
                                        December 10, 1981


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


County Tax Board Members
Practice Restrictions

        The inquiry is threefold:

        May an attorney who is a member of a county board of taxation handle criminal matters in the same county or other counties? May that attorney represent municipalities or various arms of municipalities located in the same county in which he is a member of the tax board? May he appear before State administrative boards in matters totally unrelated to taxation such as before the Division of Workers' compensation?

    (1) As to criminal defense work within the county of service, the answer is no. Although members of county boards of taxation are appointed by the Governor and paid from the State Treasury, they are perceived by the public as "members of the county official family" as described in Opinion 106, 90 N.J.L.J. 97 (1967). As such, an attorney-member is in a similar position to that of a member of the board of chosen freeholders, Opinion 291, 97 N.J.L.J. 801 (1974), even though the functions he performs are judicial rather than legislative. See also R. 1:15-1(b) and R. 1:15-3(b) which provide the rationale for disapproving the dual service.
    In other counties, the public perception is different, and the prohibition does not apply except, as recited in Opinion 106, supra, i.e., in cases transferred to the county where the inquirer serves.

    (2) As to the representation of municipal boards and agencies there is no inherent conflict of interest in nontax matters but the public perception is of concern. See Opinions 464, 106 N.J.L.J. 498 (1980), and 466, 106 N.J.L.J. 518 (1980), references to the Supreme Court's recent pronouncements in this area. See, e.g., Perillo v. Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics 83 N.J. 366 (1980). The Perillo rationale is properly extended to the area of this inquiry. DR 8-101 and DR 9-101, as linked in Opinion 189, 93 N.J.L.J. 789 (1970) and 221,94 N.J.L.J. 1002 (1971), address the same problem and require that to avoid the appearance of impropriety, an attorney decline employment where it might appear that he is being retained because of his status as a public official. This is so even if the "client" is not a private individual. Subject to the reservations which arise from the foregoing cited opinions, we believe that the representation of municipal bodies in nontax matters is not precluded.
    (3) Appearances before the State administrative agencies in nontax matters, i.e., in matters entirely unrelated to the jurisdiction of the county board of taxation, are not precluded by the above ethical considerations. However, the inquirer should be aware that R. 1:18 and Canon 3(c) of the Code of Judicial Conduct (see also Compliance Note following Canon 7, and R. 1:12), require that he disqualify himself or refuse employment in the specific situations outlined therein.


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