Conflict of Interest

87 N.J.L.J. 191
March 26, 1964

ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS

Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


OPINION 39

Conflict of Interest

An attorney who has been appointed as borough attorney states that he is requested by the board of education of the borough from time to time to give advice to it on an ad hoc basis, since the board has no attorney of its own. He cites, as examples of the type of proceedings he handles for the board of education, actions before the State Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education. He inquiries whether he should give up his position as
borough attorney or decline further requests for advice from the board of education, or whether he may still represent the board in the areas and on the basis indicated.
This particular problem has been touched upon in our Opinions 4, 86 N.J.L.J. 357 (1963); 5, 86 N.J.L.J. 361 (1963); 11, 86 N.J.L.J. 621 (1963); and 15, 86 N.J.L.J. 734 (1963), although not in the exact context of this inquiry.
As was said in Opinion 4, where an attorney represents a municipality, he must avoid any retainers from others which would place him in a position where he is seeking relief from the municipality or is opposing its action on behalf of a private client. The board of education in this case is a private client.

While it is not inevitable that there will be any conflict between the board of education and the municipality, this may occur and it would be better if the attorney declined to serve in this dual capacity. However, so long as his representation of the board of education is not in matters relating to the borough itself, there is no conflict of interest. The matters which he has handled
for the board of education, as outlined in his inquiry, would not give rise to any conflict of interest and are not improper.
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