Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Revolving Door Gets Stuck

New Jersey has enacted a Conflicts of Interest Law ("Act") that applies to former government attorneys. The Act imputes the personal disqualification of the lawyer to the firm, thus mandating disqualification notwithstanding compliance with New Jersey's version of Rule 1.11. A lawyer who had complied with the ethics rule sought an opinion "on whether the [rule] should prevail over the more restrictive mandates of [the Act]."

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the Act "serves a legitimate governmental purpose and does not improperly encroach on judicial interests" and that New Jersey lawyers must comply with both the Act and the ethics rule. The court discusses the separation of powers issue and concludes that it should defer to the legislaure in this instance. There is an impassioned dissent based on the court's exclusive authority to regulate the practice of law. The dissent discusses the development of New Jersey's Rule 1.11 and states: "Nothing---absolutely nothing---has been presented to this Court to justify reneging on the common sense provisions of RPC 1.11(c)."

The majority referred the matter to its Professional Responsibility Rules Committee for a reevaluation of the revolving door rule and "to draft, for the Court's consideration, a proposed rule in harmony with [the Act]." (Mike Frisch)

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