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

OPINION 67-12
April 25, 1967

A part-time city attorney who has a legislator partner is not precluded by Opinion 67-5 [since withdrawn] from advising the city as to the contents of existing or proposed legislation or as to the possibility or desirability of change. Any actual appearance on behalf of the city before the legislature should be conducted by a person other than the city attorney.

Canon: 6
Opinion: 67-5

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

The effect of our recent Opinion 67-5 [since withdrawn], as supplemented, on a member of The Florida Bar presents the subject of this inquiry. The inquirer is a member of a sizeable law firm in a Florida city, one of whose members is a legislator. Among other clients, the inquirer represents the municipal government, being denoted as City Attorney. The legal department of the municipality is composed of a number of assistant attorneys (all but one of whom are part-time) and the inquirer as City Attorney.

As one coordinate arm of government the City through its legal department is necessarily interested in the activities of the legislature, and sometimes prepares local legislation and urges passage of such laws at sessions of the local county delegation held prior to the convening of the legislature and on infrequent occasions before the members of the delegation at Tallahassee.

The inquirer is involved in this matter to the extent of supervision of the legal department. He is paid an annual fee which is remitted to his firm. He asks for guidance in the light of our Opinion 67-5 [since withdrawn] as to the foregoing.

It might be suggested that there is a definite distinction between the legislative interest of a branch of the sovereign and a profit-making private enterprise as was considered in our supplement to Opinion 67-5 [since withdrawn]. However, we do not think it appropriate to draw such a distinction in this instance. Instead we emphasize that Opinion 67-5 [since withdrawn] was necessarily limited to the definition of lobbying there given which was stated thusly:

We conceive lobbying generally to be the making of representations to the members of a legislative body for the purpose of influencing consideration by such legislators of pending or proposed legislation.

We did not suggest that it would be improper for the lawyers there involved to advise the client as to the contents of existing or proposed legislation or to advise as to the possibility or desirability of change. Instead our opinion was limited to the direct persuasive process commonly regarded as lobbying. In this light we see no objection to the City Attorney advising the appropriate city officials or departments concerning proposed or existing legislation, or in supervising the activities of assistant city attorneys on similar endeavors.

We do believe that in order to be consistent with our Opinion 67-5 [since withdrawn] any actual appearance before the legislature, whether in delegation sessions, committee meetings, or otherwise, should be conducted by a lawyer or layman other than the City Attorney. In the event that any such person so designated is otherwise on occasion serving as an assistant city attorney, we believe that it would be appropriate for the City during the period of such service to designate him as a legislative representative, and compensate him accordingly. Within the scope of his legislative responsibilities he should report directly to some city official other than the City Attorney.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]