skip navigation
search

End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


New Jersey Legal Ethics

VI. PUBLIC SERVICE

6.1   Rule 6.1 Pro Bono Public Service

6.1:100   Comparative Analysis of New Jersey Rule

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.1
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.1, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:
• NJ Commentary:

6.1:101      Model Rule Comparison

With the exception of its title, the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted Model Rule 6.1 verbatim. It changed the title of RPC 6.1 to read “Public Interest Legal Service.” See Comment to RPC 6.1, 114 N.J.L.J., July 19, 1984.

6.1:102      Model Code Comparison

There is no direct counterpart in the New Jersey RPCs.

6.1:200   Lawyer's Moral Obligation to Engage in Public Interest Legal Service

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.1
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.1, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 91:6001, ALI-LGL § , Wolfram § 16.9
• NJ Commentary:

RPC 6.1 provides that "[a] lawyer should render public interest legal service." The rule goes on to offer a number of options for fulfilling what it calls a "responsibility" ranging from "providing professional services at no fee" to providing "financial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means."

6.2   Rule 6.2 Accepting Appointments

6.2:100   Comparative Analysis of New Jersey Rule

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.2
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.2, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:
• NJ Commentary:

6.2:101      Model Rule Comparison

The New Jersey Supreme Court adopted ABA Model Rule 6.2. It should be noted that when the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted this rule it stated, “It should be stressed that in no way will the client’s indigency be used as a basis for avoiding such appointments; to the extent that the ABA comment to this rule reads otherwise, it is disapproved.” See Rules of Professional Conduct, Comment to RPC 6.2, 114 N.J.L.J., July 19, 1984.

6.2:102      Model Code Comparison

There is no direct counterpart in the New Jersey RPCs.

6.2:200   Duty to Accept Court Appointments Except for Good Cause

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.2
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.2, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 91:6201, ALI-LGL § 26, Wolfram § 16.9
• NJ Commentary: Section 4:6, Michels, New Jersey Attorney Ethics (Gann Law Books, Newark, 2000)

RPC 6.2 provides that attorneys "shall not seek to avoid appointment by a tribunal to represent a person except for good cause," noting that examples of "good cause" include that representation would violate other RPCs or other laws, that it would pose "an unreasonable financial burden" or that "the client or the cause is so repugnant to the lawyer as to be likely to impair" the representation itself. When such reasons exist, other counsel should be appointed. See In re Appoint. of Counsel to CLM, 277 N.J. Super. 329 (App. Div. 1994). When they do not exist, refusal to accept appointment constitutes criminal contempt of court. See In re Spann Contempt, 183 N.J. Super. 62 (App. Div. 1982); In re Frankel Contempt, 119 N.J. Super. 579 (App. Div.), certif. den. 62 N.J. 75 (1972). Certain categories of attorneys are exempt from appointment including, but not limited to, lawyers working as full time public employees in law-related or law enforcement positions, sitting judges and justices, lawyers who have performed 25 hours or more of pro bono work in the year preceding the registration, and members of District Ethics Committees and other ethics-related groups. See generally Notice to the Bar, 139 N.J.L.J. 314 (1995).

6.3   Rule 6.3 Membership in Legal Services Organization

6.3:100   Comparative Analysis of New Jersey Rule

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.3
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.3, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:
• NJ Commentary:

6.3:101      Model Rule Comparison

The New Jersey Supreme Court accepted the recommendations of the Debevoise Committee and adopted the language of the Model Rule proposed by the Kutak Commission in 1981. It made two changes to the Kutak Commission’s proposed rule. First, it added a reference to classes of clients, not just clients, in recognition of the fact that legal services organization represent not only clients but classes of clients. Second, it added a reference to Rule 1.7, obligating a board member or officer of a legal services organization to refrain from participating when such participation would constitute a conflict of interest in connection with one of his or her own clients under Rule 1.7. See Debevoise Committee Report, 112 N.J.L.J., July 28, 1983.

6.3:102      Model Code Comparison

There is no direct counterpart in the New Jersey RPCs.

6.3:200   Conflicts of Interest of Lawyers Participating in a Legal Services Organization

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.3
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.3, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 91:6401, ALI-LGL § 216, Wolfram § 16.7.4
• NJ Commentary: Section 19:3-1, Michels, New Jersey Attorney Ethics (Gann Law Books, Newark, 2000)

Several New Jersey Advisory Committee opinions indicate that an attorney who renders legal services to the organization itself should not also be selected or assigned to represent the individual members or beneficiaries of the organization. See N.J. Advisory Comm. on Professional Ethics Comm. Op. 405 (Sept. 28, 1978); Advisory Comm. Op. 284 (May 16, 1974) (a lawyer who represents a corporation established to organize tenants in securing legal advice may not also represent individual tenant subscribers to the corporation's services); Advisory Comm. Op. 256 (June 21, 1973) (a lawyer who represents a labor union should not also prepare wills for the union members pursuant to the union's group legal services plan). Cf. Advisory Comm. Op. 114 (July 20, 1967) and Advisory Comm. Op. 143 (Jan. 23, 1969), ruling that an attorney employed as the manager of a manufacturers' trade association may not represent individual members of the association in labor arbitrations or hearings before the National Labor Relations Board. But cf. Advisory Comm. Op. 484 (June 18, 1981).

See also United Mine Workers v. Illinois State Bar Ass'n, 389 U.S. 217, 224 (1967), characterizing the possible divergence between the interests of a union and one of its members in a workers' compensation scenario as "theoretically imaginable." And see Advisory Comm. Op. 270 (Nov. 15, 1973), deciding that the attorney for a nonprofit association of nonprofit institutions could also represent institutional members of the association in connection with unemployment claims made by former employees of the members. The Committee relied on the public interest in the prevention of groundless unemployment claims and on the fact that the legal services to be provided to member institutions were "incidental to the primary purpose" of the association.

6.4   Rule 6.4 Law Reform Activities Affecting Client Interests

6.4:100   Comparative Analysis of New Jersey Rule

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.4
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.4, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:
• NJ Commentary:

6.4:101      Model Rule Comparison

The New Jersey Supreme Court adopted ABA Model Rule 6.4. The New Jersey Supreme Court added language at the end of this rule to clarify that RPC 6.3 applies when the organization is also a legal services organization. See Comment to RPC 6.2, 114 N.J.L.J., July 19, 1984.

6.4:102      Model Code Comparison

There is no direct counterpart in the New Jersey RPCs.

6.4:200   Conflicts of Interest of Lawyers Participating in Law Reform Organizations

• Primary New Jersey References: NJ Rule 6.4
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.4, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary: ABA/BNA § 91:6401, ALI-LGL § , Wolfram § 13.8
• NJ Commentary:

6.5   Rule 6.5 Nonprofit and Court-Annexed Limited Legal Service Programs

6.5:100   Comparative Analysis of New Jersey Rule

• Primary New Jersey References:
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.5, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

MR 6.5 was added in February 2002. The Reporter's explanation of the change reads as follows:

Rule 6.5 is a new Rule in response to the Commission's concern that a strict application of the conflict-of-interest rules may be deterring lawyers from serving as volunteers in programs in which clients are provided short-term limited legal services under the auspices of a nonprofit organization or a court-annexed program. The paradigm is the legal-advice hotline or pro se clinic, the purpose of which is to provide short-term limited legal assistance to persons of limited means who otherwise would go unrepresented.

6.5:101      Model Rule Comparison

New Jersey has not adopted the new model rule.

6.5:200   Scope of Rule

• Primary New Jersey References:
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.5, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

New Jersey has not adopted the new model rule.

6.5:300   Special Conflict of Interest Rule

• Primary New Jersey References:
• Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.5, Other Jurisdictions
• Commentary:

New Jersey has not adopted the new model rule.