The Florida Bar
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PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 68-53
January 15, 1969

It would not be proper for an attorney to represent a criminal defendant while simultaneously representing a personal injury plaintiff bringing an unrelated civil suit against the same defendant, even if both clients consent.

Canon: 6

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

While representing a minor in a guest passenger case against the minor driver of a vehicle in which she was riding at the time of an automobile accident, the inquirer was asked to defend the driver of the automobile against criminal charges of possession of narcotics. Both of the minors involved and their parents are familiar with the proposed dual representation and have no objections to the inquirer proceeding both with the filing of the civil guest action and the defense of the criminal charges, which are apparently otherwise totally factually unrelated. We are asked as to whether consent having been given by the parties involved, there is any other impropriety.

It occurs to us that the nature of the dual representation is such, in this particular instance, that it should not be countenanced by this Committee. Manifest dangers lurk in the background. For example, in the course of the trial of the civil guest action, it conceivably could become important to demonstrate that the defendant was a known or suspected possessor of narcotics (or possibly by that time, a convicted possessor), which might require counsel to discredit his own client. It also is obvious that the insurance carrier, which we are told will provide the defense in the guest action, would be seriously prejudiced by the continual interchange of communications between the civil defendant and his criminal defense counsel.

Under all the circumstances, therefore, we do not think that the inquirer should undertake the criminal representation.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]