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In re Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics Opinion No. 447

Decided: July 2, 1981.

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OPINION NO. 447, HOWARD D. SOBEN, AND THE NEW JERSEY ASSOCIATION OF ATTORNEY-CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS, INC., APPELLANTS


On petition for review of an opinion of the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Sullivan, Clifford, Schreiber, Handler and Pollock. For reversal -- None.

Per Curiam

Petitioner seeks review of a decision of the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, which decision states that an attorney at law of this State, who is also licensed as a Certified Public Accountant, cannot disclose that licensure by placing the initials "CPA" on the letterhead of his law firm.

I

On July 10, 1979, Merit B. Gavin, an attorney and a certified public accountant, requested an opinion from the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics. The issue submitted was: "With regard to an attorney's letterhead, is the use of the designation 'CPA' after an attorney's name permissible?" The Committee responded with N.J. Advisory Comm. on Professional Ethics, No. 447, 105 N.J.L.J. 119 (February 7, 1980) (hereinafter " Opinion No. 447 "), determining that such a disclosure or communication was impermissible. Because that opinion was based in part on a superseded ethics opinion from New York, Mr. Gavin requested

that the Committee review its decision. The Committee subsequently reaffirmed its decision. 106 N.J.L.J. 69 (July 24, 1980).

On August 16, 1980, Howard D. Soben, also an attorney and a certified public accountant, filed a petition requesting that this Court review the validity of Opinion No. 447. We allowed the New Jersey Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants, Inc. leave to intervene, and granted the petition.

II

We must initially determine whether placing the designation "CPA" on an attorney's letterhead is consistent with our Code of Professional Ethics.

Disciplinary Rule 2-102(D) reads as follows:

A lawyer who is engaged in the practice of law and another profession or business shall not so indicate on his letterhead, office sign, or professional card, nor shall he identify himself as a lawyer in any publication in connection with his other profession or business.

This disciplinary rule is concise and unambiguous and compels the conclusion that the suggested conduct is violative of its clear wording. The inclusion upon the letterhead of an attorney at law of the designation "CPA" or other expression of licensure as a Certified Public Accountant is unquestionably the indication of "another profession" in addition to that of a ...


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