Opinion #150 – 08/18/1970 (20-70)
Modified by #228
Topic: Conflict of Interest; Appearance of Impropriety
Digest: Attorney who is justice of the peace acting as defense attorney in court of another town
appearance, conflict of interests, criminal practice, judges
Code: Canon 9, DR 9-101, EC 9-2, Canons of Judicial Ethics No. 31
Is it proper for a lawyer who is a part-time Justice of the Peace and for his partners and associates to act as defense counsel for criminal defendants in a town other than the town in which he sits as justice.
The Justice of the Peace Court is territorially limited to a particular town and to specified types of cases. In view of these limitations it is not improper for a lawyer who is Justice of the Peace in one town to practice law as counsel for criminal defendants in another town, provided the circumstances are such that there is no reasonable likelihood, because of proximity of the place of practice to the suits of his court, his connections with the justices of the other court or the other town, or other relevant factors, that his appearance before the court of the other town would give rise to an appearance of impropriety, prejudice or favoritism. The same principle would apply to the partners and legal associates of the justice.The Committee’s opinion is influenced by desirability of having lawyers act as Justices of the Peace and the practical difficulties that would arise if, because of such limited public service, they and their partners and associates were excluded from all practice before Justices of the Peace. The situation would be different in the case of courts of wider jurisdiction.