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The criminal defense lawyer who moonlights as a municipal prosecutor in New Jersey is going the way of the justice of the peace and the constable. The state Supreme Court said in State v. Clark, that lawyers cannot represent criminal defendants in Superior Court or any municipal court in counties in which they serve as municipal prosecutors. Such dual roles pose “the high probability that the prosecutor’s impartiality will be undermined,” Justice James Coleman Jr. wrote for a unanimous Court. For example, a prosecutor elicits testimony from a friendly police officer in municipal court one night, and the next day might have to cross-examine that officer on behalf of a client, the court noted. The Court said its ruling must be obeyed by Dec. 31, 2000, giving prosecutors a year to decide which role they prefer. For most it will be a simple economic question. Which income can they afford to forgo: the municipal salary or the earnings from criminal defense work?

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