BAR ASSOCIATION OF NASSAU COUNTY
COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
Opinion No. 2007-02
(Inquiry No. 763 )
An attorney who practices law privately and holds a position as the Teen Court Coordinator for a City Court wishes to practice law before this same City Court.
An attorney who holds the position of Teen Court Coordinator which facilitates student participation in the City Court sentencing proceeding is not prohibited from representing clients before the same court providing she complies with DR 8-101(A)(2) and DR 9-101(C).
An attorney holds a position in a City Court as a Teen Court Coordinator and also intends to practice privately before that Court. The goal of the Teen Court Program is to rehabilitate teenagers who have their first encounter with the criminal justice system and deter them from future criminal conduct.
In order to be eligible for this program the defendant must be 18 years or younger, a first time offender, willing to plead guilty and be charged with a misdemeanor or violation in Nassau County. If the Supervising Judge, the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney all agree that the defendant’s participation in the program will be beneficial to the defendant then the defendant is referred to the Teen Court Coordinator for a final decision as to participation.
The Teen Court Coordinator lectures in the local High Schools and trains student volunteers to act as the attorneys, judge and jurors. The case is assigned to a particular school and the defendant is introduced to his or her student defense team. A hearing is held and the student jurors return a recommendation of sentencing. The defendant then appears before the Supervising Judge of the City Court who imposes a sentence that may or may not be based upon the recommendation of the Teen Court, which sentence is usually community service. After defendant completes the terms of his or her sentence the Teen Court Coordinator forwards a certificate of completion to the court.
It appears that the activities of the Teen Court Coordinator are limited to the lecturing in High School, designating the assignments of the students and coordinating the conduct of these
Trials with the Supervising Judge. According to the information supplied to this Committee, the attorney is not practicing law before this City Court by virtue of his or her acting as the Teen Court Coordinator nor would this activity conflict with the attorney’s representation of a private client before this court.
DR 5-105 deals with Conflicts of Interest. There is no part of this Disciplinary Rule disqualifying the attorney from representing clients before this City Court under the circumstances presented.
The Teen Coordinator should remain mindful of DR 8-101(A)(2) and DR 9-101(C). DR 8-101(A)(2) states that a lawyer who holds a public office shall not “Use the public position to influence, or attempt to influence, a tribunal to act in favor of the lawyer or of a client.” DR 9-101(C) states that “A lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is able to influence improperly or upon irrelevant grounds any tribunal, legislative body or public official.” Neither of these sections of the Disciplinary Rules would disqualify the attorney from acting as Teen Coordinator and practicing law in the City Court.
[Approved by the full Committee on June 20, 2007]