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Public Defender Serving on the School Board

Adopted: April 12, 1991

Opinion rules that a public defender may represent criminal defendants while serving on the school board.


Fines and forfeitures in criminal cases are payable to the county board of education. May an attorney who serves on the board of education also represent persons accused of crimes as the public defender?


Yes. Although the interests of the school board in realizing maximum revenue from fines and forfeitures might, as a theoretical matter, conflict with the defendant's interest in minimizing such penalties, as a practical matter any such conflict would be de minimis and would not materially limit the attorney's representation of the defendant. 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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