Editor's Note: This opinion was originally published as RPC 95 (Revised).
Assistant D.A. Serving on the School Board
Opinion rules that an assistant district attorney may prosecute cases while serving on the school board.
Attorney A is an assistant district attorney and a member of a county board of education. Fines and forfeitures in criminal cases are payable to the county board of education. Attorney A is concerned about his dual roles as prosecutor and board member and the possible conflict that arises during the negotiation of pleas. Accepting pleas to lesser charges, or dismissing charges in exchange for pleas to other charges usually has an effect on the fine imposed; and arguing before the court for a specific bond or forfeiture of that bond in other situations also affects monies going to the school system.
May Attorney A prosecute cases while serving as a member of the school board?
Yes. Although the interest of the school board in realizing maximum revenue from fines and forfeitures might, as a theoretical matter, conflict with the interest of the State of North Carolina in the procurement of just results in criminal cases, as a practical matter any such conflict would be de minimis and would not materially limit Attorney A's representation of the state. Rule 5.1(b).
In making this determination, the committee notes that statistics show that funds realized from the collection of fines and forfeitures constitute only a minute portion of the total funding of public schools in North Carolina. The committee is also advertent to the fact that in many cases county appropriations for school administration are decreased as the collection of fines and forfeitures increases on a dollar-for-dollar basis so that there is no net benefit to the local school board from extraordinary collections of fines or forfeitures.
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