Ethics Opinion 141
Opinion #141 – 05/28/1970 (19-70)
Topic: Conflict of Interest of Attorney – Legislator
adverse interests, appearance, conflict of interests, county legislator, legislature, part-time public official or employee, representation
Digest: Not proper for attorney who is county legislator to represent plaintiff whose cause of action against a township is based upon regulations of county legislature’s agency
Code: EC 8-8, DR 8-101
A county legislature, by its agency, has issued regulations with which a township within the county has failed to comply. May a county legislator, an attorney practicing privately, represent a client in an action against the township to enforce compliance?
It is the opinion of the Committee that it would be improper for the lawyer to represent a private client under these circumstances.EC 8-8 provides:”Lawyers often serve as legislators or as holders of other public offices. This is highly desirable, as lawyers are uniquely qualified to make significant contributions to the improvement of the legal system. A lawyer, who is a public officer, whether full or part-time, should not engage in activities in which his personal or professional interests are or forseeably may be in conflict with his official duties.”If the municipality against which the suit is brought should con- test the interpretation being placed on the regulation by the attorney or should appeal to the county agency or the county legislature fox modification or repeal of the regulation or for an extension of time for compliance, the attorney as a member of the county legislature would be unable to perform his official function without being influenced by the private interests of his client, and vice versa. Moreover, his membership in the county legislature might give his private client an undue advantage over the defendant in view of the fact that the matter in suit involves an act of the county legislature. This apparent inequity would create an impression of impropriety in the eyes of the public.