ASSEMBLY, No. 338

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

209th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2000 SESSION

 

 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman PETER J. BARNES, JR.

District 18 (Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

    Establishes the "County Prosecutors' Code of Ethics."

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

    Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.

 


An Act establishing a code of ethics for county prosecutors and their employees and supplementing Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

    Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

    1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "County Prosecutors' Code of Ethics."

 

    2. The Legislative finds and declares that:

    a. In New Jersey's criminal justice system, county prosecutors and the employees of their offices perform vital and highly sensitive duties;

    b. Public confidence in the criminal justice system is eroded whenever the public perceives that county prosecutors or their employees are not performing their duties in an impartial, professional manner or that the private interests of county prosecutors and their employees have on influence on the performance of those duties;

    c. Government has a duty to provide their citizens with standards by which they may determine whether the functions of county prosecutors' offices are being properly performed and to apprise county prosecutors and their employees of the course of conduct which is expected of them while conducting their duties;

    d. It is the purpose of this act in order to help to insure public confidence in the criminal justice system, by establishing a Statewide code of ethics for county prosecutors and the employees of county prosecutors' offices.

 

    3. As used in this act:

    a. "employee of a county prosecutor" means any person who is either employed by or assigned to a county prosecutor's office.

    b. "ethics code" means the code of ethics established by this act.

 

    4. a. A county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor shall not have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity which is in conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest.

    b. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not engage, directly or indirectly, in any business, trade, profession, trade or occupation which is subject to licensing or regulation by any State, county or municipal agency without obtaining approval for that activity by the county prosecutor.

    c. A county prosecutor or any employee of a county prosector shall not use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages for himself or others.

    d. A county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor shall not act in his official capacity in any manner wherein he has a direct or indirect personal financial interest that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment.

    e. A county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor shall not undertake any employment or service, whether compensated or not, which might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity and independence of judgment in the exercise of his official duties.

    f. A county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor shall not solicit, receive or accept any gratuity, gift or other thing of value, either directly or indirectly, under circumstances from which it might reasonable be inferred that such gift, gratuity, or other thing of value was offered or given for the purpose of influencing him in the discharge of his official duties.

    g. A county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor shall not knowingly and without justification act in any way that might reasonably be expected to create an impression or suspicion among the public having knowledge of his acts that he may be engaged in conduct violative of his trust as the county prosecutor or as an employee of a county prosecutor.

    h. A county prosecutor or employee shall not attend any conference, convention or meeting relating to the duties and responsibilities of his position at the expense of any organization or agency other than the office of the county prosecutor unless the employee has the approval of the county prosecutor or in the case of a county prosecutor, the approval of the Attorney General.

 

    5. a. An assistant prosecutor shall not engage in other gainful employment except, with the prior written approval of the county prosecutor, for a part-time teaching position at an institute of higher education in a program of law enforcement education.

    b. An employee of a county prosecutor other than an assistant prosecutor shall not engage in any outside employment without the prior written approval of the prosecutor.

 

    6. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not disclose, other than to law enforcement personnel, any information concerning the operations, investigations or other business of the prosecutor's office which is not generally available to members of the public unless such disclosure is expressly authorized by the county prosecutor.

 

    7. An assistant prosecutor shall not, prior to the final resolution of a criminal proceeding, make any extra-judicial statement for public dissemination which is reasonably likely to interfere with the criminal proceeding.

 

    8. a. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not provide bail or bail costs to any person accused of a criminal offense without the approval of the county prosecutor.

    b. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not testify as a character or reputation witness on behalf of any person accused of a criminal offense without the prior approval of the county prosecutor.

    c. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not recommend, contact or assist in obtaining counsel to represent any person accused of a criminal offense.

 

    9. A county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor in making any judgment in his official capacity shall not consider his personal or political advantage, or his personal reputation.

 

    10. A county prosecutor and any employee of a county prosecutor shall insure that no conflict of interest or appearance of conflict is created when engaging any consultant, contract agent, independent contractor or other person to perform a service for the prosecutor's office.

 

    11. a. A county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor shall not engage in any political activity or attend any affair for political purposes.

    b. As used in this section, "political activity" includes;

    (1) Any candidacy for elective public or political office;

    (2) Any holding of an office in, or employment with or working on behalf of any political party, organization or club;

    (3) Any participation in any political campaign;

    (4) Any exhibiting of signs concerning political candidates on one's person, vehicle or home;

    (5) Any use of one's name in connection with any political material;

    (6) Any purchase, sale or distribution of tickets to any affair held for any political purpose whatsoever;

    (7) Any contribution to a political party or candidate;

    (8) Any soliciting or accepting of any contribution either directly or through a third person to or on behalf of any political organization or for any other political purpose whatsoever;

    (9) Any use of one's official influence to modify the political action of another; and

    (10) Any working at the polls during election time or as an election official at any time.

 

    12. a. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not serve as an officer, trustee, director or member of any charitable, civic or professional organization, association or committee without obtaining the prior approval of the county prosecutor.

    b. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not serve on any public body or any governmental position without the prior written approval of the county prosecutor.

    c. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not use his official title or his name in any written materials issued on behalf of any public body or charitable, civic, religious or professional organization, association or committee.

    d. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not engage in any fund-raising activity without the prior written approval of the county prosecutor.

 

    13. a. A former assistant prosecutor shall not appear in any criminal matter in any capacity against the State in the county by which he was employed for a period of six months from the date of termination of his public employment. This prescription does not foreclose such appearances by a law firm with which the former assistant prosecutor is associated.

    b. A former assistant prosecutor and any law firm with which he is associated shall not represent any person in any matter (1) in which he participated to any extent while an assistant prosecutor including but not limited to any aspect of investigation, trial preparation or trial; (2) for which he had any responsibility, whether exercised or not; or (3) about which he became aware of any facts or other information.

 

    14. An assistant prosecutor or a person employed by a county prosecutor as a detective or investigator shall not privately retain or be represented in his personal legal affairs by any attorney who maintains of active criminal practice within the county in which the person is employed.

 

    15. a. An employee of a county prosecutor's office shall not testify in any civil action as a fact witness without the prior approval of the county prosecutor, or without prior notification to the county prosecutor when the testimony is given pursuant to an order of the court.

    b. An employee of a county prosecutor shall not testify in any civil action as to his expert opinion on any matter without the prior approval of the prosecutor. The county prosecutor shall determine whether a fee shall be remitted to the county for such expert testimony by the litigant seeking to offer that testimony.

 

    16. With respect to the implementation of the provisions of the ethics code, the Attorney General shall have the following powers:

    a. To initiate, receive, hear and review complaints and hold hearings with regard to possible violations of the ethics code;

    b. To issue subpoenas for the production of documents and the attendance of witnesses with respect to its investigation of any complaint or to the holding of a hearing;

    c. To render advisory opinions as to whether a given set of facts and circumstances would constitute a violation of the ethics code;

    d. To enforce the provisions of the ethics code and to impose penalties for the violation thereof as are authorized by this act; and

    e. To adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c. 410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.) and to do other things as are necessary to implement the purposes of this act.

 

    17. A county prosecutor or employee of a county prosecutor may request and obtain from the Attorney General an advisory opinion as to whether any proposed activity or conduct would in its opinion constitute a violation of the provisions of the ethics code. Advisory opinions of the Attorney General shall not be made public, except when the Attorney General directs that the opinion be made public. Public advisory opinions shall not disclose the name of the requester unless the Attorney General in directing that the opinion be made public so determines.

 

    18. The Attorney General, upon receipt of a signed written complaint by any person alleging that the conduct of a county prosecutor or an employee of a county prosecutor is in conflict with the provisions of the ethics code, shall acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 30 days of receipt and initiate an investigation concerning the facts and circumstances set forth in the complaint. The Attorney General shall make a determination as to whether the complaint is within its jurisdiction or frivolous or without any reasonable factual basis. If the Attorney General shall conclude that the complaint is outside its jurisdiction, frivolous or without factual basis, it shall reduce that conclusion to writing and shall transmit a copy thereof to the complainant and to the county prosecutor or employee of a county prosecutor against whom the complaint was filed. Otherwise the Attorney General shall notify the county prosecutor or employee of a county prosecutor against whom the complaint was filed of the nature of the complaint and the facts and circumstances set forth therein. The county prosecutor or an employee of an county prosecutor shall have a opportunity to present the Attorney General with any statement or information concerning the complaint which he wishes. Thereafter, if the Attorney General determines that a reasonable doubt exists as to whether a county prosecutor or employee of a county prosecutor is in conflict with the provisions of the ethics code. the Attorney General shall conduct a hearing in the manner prescribed by section 21 of this act concerning the possible violation and any other facts and circumstances which may have come to the attention of the Attorney General with respect to the conduct of the count prosecutor or employee of a county prosecutor. The Attorney General shall render a decision as to whether the conduct of a county prosecutor or employee of a county prosecutor is in conflict with the provisions of the ethics code. A final decision of the Attorney General may be appealed in same manner as any other final State agency decision.

 

    19. A county prosecutor or employee of county prosecutor found guilty by Attorney General of the violation of any provision of this ethics code, shall be fined not less than $100.00 nor more than $500.00, which penalty may be collected in a summary proceeding pursuant to "the penalty enforcement law" (N.J.S.2A:58-1 et seq.). The Attorney General may also recommend the person's removal, demotion, suspension or any disciplinary action which the Attorney General deems appropriate.

 

    20. A finding by the Attorney General that a county prosecutor or employee of the county prosector is guilty of violation of the ethics code shall be sufficient cause for his removal, suspension, demotion or other disciplinary action. When a person who is in the career service is charged with violating the provisions of the ethics code, the procedure leading to removal, suspension, demotion or other disciplinary action shall be governed by any applicable procedures of Title 11A of the New Jersey Statutes and the rules promulgated pursuant thereto.

 

    21. All hearings required pursuant to this act shall be conducted in conformity with the rules and procedures, insofar as they may be applicable, provided for hearings by a State agency in contested cases under the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C52:14B-1 et seq.).

 

    22. This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

    This bill would establish the "County Prosecutors' Code of Ethics." This code would apply both to county prosecutors and all persons employed in their offices. The code would generally prohibit county prosecutors and their employees from engaging in business or professional activities which conflict with the proper discharge of their duties.

    The code would specially prohibit a county prosecutor and any employee of a county prosecutor from using their official position to secure unwarranted privileges for himself or others and from acting in an official capacity in matters in which he has a direct or indirect financial interest.

    Other provisions of the bill would prohibit county prosecutors and their employees from accepting gifts and from engaging in political activities.

    In addition, the code would establish restrictions on certain charitable and civic activities and establish post-employment restrictions for assistant prosecutors.

    The bill provides that the Attorney General would be responsible for enforcing the ethics code. Violations would be punishable by a fine of between $100.00 and $500.00. The Attorney General could also recommendation further disciplinary action such as removal, suspension or demotion.