The Florida Bar

March 28, 1970

A lawyer may not represent one of the defendants in a declaratory judgment proceeding instituted by him on behalf of a tax assessor to establish which defendant should be listed on the tax roll as owner of certain property.

Canons: 6 and 36

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar advises as follows:

A municipality and a large landowning corporation both claim title to one and one-half miles of public beach in the south part of this county. The ownership of the property was, and still is, disputed. The Tax Assessor was asked by each claimant to list the property in its name and did neither, but listed it in the names of both owners and filed a declaratory decree action seeking a ruling from the Circuit Court as to which party owned the land so that it might be correctly listed on county tax rolls.

I was the attorney for the Tax Assessor who advised him to list the property in the name of both claimants and to file a declaratory decree action seeking judicial determination of ownership. At the time the claims of ownership were presented, both the municipality and the land developer corporation submitted documentary proof of their claims of title, which were examined by me and upon which I could make no conclusive determination of land ownership.

I have been asked again whether I could represent the municipality in the declaratory decree suit to establish its claim for ownership of the land involved.

It is the opinion of the Committee that the provisions of Canon 6 and Canon 36 preclude his representation of a municipality in a declaratory decree suit wherein he had previously represented the tax assessor and had reviewed the title information relevant to the lands in question during the time of his employment as counsel for the tax assessor.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]