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                                         117 N.J.L.J. 1
                                        January 2, 1986


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Conflict of Interest -
Partner of Municipal Court
Judge Serving as Public Defender
in Another Municipality Within County

    This inquirer is a partner of a municipal court judge and poses two questions:
    1.    May the inquirer serve as a municipal public defender in a municipality other than that in which his partner is the judge?

    2.    May the inquirer accept pool assignments from the public defender's office in the same county in which his partner is a municipal court judge?

    The first question must clearly be answered in the negative as to the county in which his partner is a municipal judge. R. 1:15-l(c) provides:
    An attorney who is a judge or acting judge of a municipal court shall not practice in any criminal, quasi-criminal, or penal matter, whether judicial or administrative in nature, except to perform the official duties of a municipal attorney of another municipality.

    This prohibition is partially extended to municipal judges' partners by R. 1:15-4.
    Whenever R. 1:15 imposes limitations on the practice of law by an attorney, such limitations shall also extend to any attorney who is his partner, employer, employee or office associate; except that, as applied to partners, employers, employees, and office associates, the limitations imposed on the practice of law by judges of municipal court by R. 1:15-l(c) shall extend only to the county in which the court of the judge or acting judge is located. (Emphasis supplied).

    Acting as a municipal public defender in the county where the inquirer's partner sits as a judge is clearly prohibited though a prohibition does not extend to other counties.
    A closer question is raised as to accepting pool assignments in the same county from the county public defender's office. In support of such practice, the inquirer points out that R. 1:15-4 goes on to state:
    Nor shall the limitations imposed by R. 1:15 on attorneys preclude assignments of their partners, employers, employees and office associates by the court for the representation of indigents.

    We conclude that participation in a pool established for the representation of indigents is not an "assignment" within the meaning of the rule. Cf. also Opinion 359, 99 N.J.L.J. 1153 (1976) and Opinion 359 (Supplement) 100 N.J.L.J. 417 (1977).

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