6 N.J.L. 1635
June 30, 1997
148 N.J.L.J. 1338
June 30, 1997
Communicating Former Service
as Municipal Court Judge
The Committee has received an inquiry from an attorney who
served as a municipal court judge in "numerous" cities and
townships from 1979 through and including 1983. He has asked
whether he may communicate the fact that he is a former municipal
court judge in advertisements to be published in the regional
newspaper and the Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages.
The information conveyed by a statement communicating one's former service as a public official readily identifies for consumers an attorney who has a familiarity with, is seeking, and willing to handle a particular type of matter. See Opinion 4, 122 N.J.L.J. 746 (1988)(attorney may advertise by area of practice in telephone directories) and Opinion 7, 127 N.J.L.J. 753 (1991)(attorney may communicate concentration in a field of practice). This is consistent with the requirement that attorney advertising be "predominantly informational." RPC 7.2(a).
However, the mere statement that one was once a municipal court judge, without more, may be potentially misleading. Pursuant to RPC 7.1(a)(1), a communication may be misleading if it "omits a fact necessary to make the statement as a whole not materially misleading." Information concerning the number of or exact years of an attorney's service as a municipal court judge and the municipalities in which that service took place will assist consumers in determining whether or not the attorney possesses the knowledge, experience and familiarity with local roads, businesses, or police departments they are looking for in an attorney to protect their rights. Conversely, the absence of such information may lead the consumer to make a hasty or uninformed decision concerning the choice of counsel. Consequently, we hold that an attorney may advertise the fact that the attorney is a former municipal court judge only if the attorney includes the years and location(s) of service in the advertisement.