Ethics Opinion 111

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #111 – 08/04/1969 (9-69)

Topic: Conflict of Interest
Digest: Improper for lawyer to represent governmental urban renewal agency in title examination and related matters while also representing private property owners in condemnation proceedings commenced by that agency, even though full disclosure is made both to the agency and to the property owners.
Canon: Former Canon 6

QUESTION

An attorney inquires whether he may properly be retained both by a governmental urban renewal agency and by private property owners whose land is expected to be condemned by the agency under the following circumstances: The services for the agency would consist of examining title, taking corrective steps for the improvement of title, certifying title to the agency, preparing description and deed, and supervising the execution of the same by the property owners to the agency. The attorney would not represent the agency in price negotiations or in condemnation proceedings in the event the agency and the property owners do not agree on price; the agency would be represented by its own general counsel in such matters. It is know that the agency proposes to acquire properties owned by present clients of the attorney, and past experience in. the area indicates a strong likelihood that the prices to be offered by the agency will not be acceptable to the owners, thus necessitating condemnation proceedings. The attorney anticipates that his existing clients, the private property owners, will wish to retain him to represent them in the prospective condemnation proceedings.

OPINION

The governmental urban renewal agency is a public body and there fore cannot consent to the dual representation if there is a conflict. There would be a conflict were the attorney to do title work on a property for the agency as described and to represent a private client against the agency in condemnation proceedings involving the same property. The Committee is further of the opinion that it would be inadvisable for the attorney to represent the agency as described and also to represent private clients against the agency in condemnation proceedings even though the latter do not involve property as to which the attorney performed title work for the agency, since an attorney for a public body must avoid even the appearance of a conflict.See the following opinions published in Opinions Of The Committee On Professional Ethics Of The Association of The Bar Of The City Of New York and The New York County Lawyers Association, Columbia University Press, New York, 1956:N.Y.City 70 (1926-27, p. 30) N.Y.City 71 (1926-27, p. 30) N.Y.City 130 (Feb. 14, 1930, p. 61) N.Y.City 349 (Dec. 3, 1935, p. 184) N.Y.County 350 (1939, p. 741)See also formal opinions of The Committee on Professional Ethics Of The American Bar Association numbered 16, 34, 77 and 92.

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