Skip Navigation

 
The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 65-3
January 20, 1965

Entry of a judgment and expiration of the appeal period does not automatically terminate the attorney-client relationship. Accordingly, the plaintiff's attorney may not communicate directly with the defendant upon the subject of the controversy, with a view to settlement of the judgment, until he has determined that the defendant is no longer represented by counsel.

Canon: 9

Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:

In essence, a member of The Florida Bar inquires as to the propriety of an attorney, acting on behalf of a plaintiff who has secured a judgment against a defendant, contacting the defendant directly either by letter, telephone call or personal contact rather than communicating with the attorney who represented the defendant in the course of the litigation.

This appears to be an inquiry of first impression, and the Committee is not unanimous in its response. For purposes of this response, the Committee has assumed that the appeal period has expired.

It is the opinion of a majority of the Committee that entry of the judgment and expiration of the appeal period do not automatically terminate the attorney-client relationship between the defendant and his lawyer. In the opinion of the majority, there are many matters remaining to be resolved from the point of view of the judgment debtor about which the debtor may continue to consult his lawyer. The majority concludes, therefore, that the provisions of Canon 9 of the Canons of Professional Ethics are still applicable and that counsel for the plaintiff should not directly communicate with the defendant unless and until he has obtained consent from the attorney who represented the defendant in the litigation.

Two members of the Committee believe that entry of the judgment and expiration of the appeal period terminates the attorney-client relationship and that counsel for the plaintiff may therefore communicate directly with the judgment debtor insofar as professional ethics are involved. These Committee members, however, believe that the defendant's attorney should nevertheless be contacted as a matter of courtesy before counsel for plaintiff proceeds to deal directly with the defendant.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]