89 N.J.L.J. 641
October 6, 1966
Intermunicipal Sewerage Attorney
A member of the bar advises that for many years he has served
as attorney for an intermunicipal sewerage authority created by
parallel ordinances of two municipalities. He further states that
"The members of the authority from each municipality are appointed
to five-year terms by resolution of the respective governing bodies." The agency's functions are related solely to the treatment and disposal of sewage received from residents of the two municipalities.
In view of recent opinions of this Committee with respect to the conflict of interest involved where an attorney for a municipal agency (or a member of his firm) appears as counsel for private litigants before the municipal court or other agencies of the same municipality, the inquirer questions whether the "peculiar and limited scope of operation of the Authority" would preclude him or the members of his firm from appearing before the magistrate's courts or other agencies of the two municipalities served by the authority.
It is our opinion that on the facts presented the inquirer's representation of the intermunicipal agency would ethically bar appearance by him or his partners before any magistrate or agency of either municipality. Neither the so-called "peculiar and limited scope of operation" nor the intermunicipal aspect of the agency offers any valid basis for distinguishing the situation presented in this inquiry from those in similar inquiries involving the various agencies of just one municipality. Applicable here is the basic principle that appearance of complete absence of improper influence is as important as the actual absence thereof. See Opinion 52 of this Committee, 87 N.J.L.J. 610 (1964), and numerous opinions cited therein.