The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR
OPINION 62-68
April 15, 1963

The failure of a lawyer to practice criminal law is not an excuse for failure to accept a court appointment to represent an indigent criminal defendant. A lawyer refusing such an appointment is subject to disciplinary action. A lawyer who withdraws from state court criminal practice but continues federal court criminal practice is still obligated to accept such appointments.

Canon: 4

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar states that a local judge is assigning lawyers on a rotating basis to represent indigent prisoners in criminal cases and poses several questions as to acceptance of the responsibility.

Answering question No. 1, we do not feel that failure of a lawyer to practice criminal law is an excuse for failure to accept such an appointment, and that he would violate Canon 4 by so doing.

Answering question No. 2, we believe that a lawyer refusing to accept such an appointment is subject to disciplinary action.

Answering question No. 3, we believe a lawyer who withdraws from state court criminal practice, but continues federal court criminal practice, is still obligated to accept such appointments.

We believe that an effective system of screening indigents should be established and that the indigent should be examined under oath as to his assets and ability to pay and should be punished by contempt or perjury charges for false testimony.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]