The Florida Bar
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PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 68-12
May 7, 1968

An attorney who unsuccessfully represented clients opposing rezoning of a tract may not subsequently represent the owner of an adjacent tract who seeks similar rezoning, when that action is again opposed by some of the former clients of the attorney.

Canon: 6

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar advises as follows:

Two years ago, I represented a group of objectors in a very active area in _______________, Florida, whereby we were opposing the proposed zoning of a 7½ acre tract from one-acre EU zoning to apartment house use. I represented some twenty or thirty people in the area, some close by, and some several hundred feet away. My representation on behalf of the objectors before the Zoning Appeals Board and before the County Commissioners was successful, and both these Boards denied the rezoning. The attorney for the applicant then went to court, the ___________ District Court of Appeals reversed the two lower Boards and directed that the property be rezoned for apartment house use. This property is across the street from extensive apartment houses and medical clinics and has now become a very hot area.

Now I have been retained by another property owner in the area who owns a tract of land right next to the original 7½ acre tract, and he has employed me to file application with the _______________ County Zoning Appeals Board to have the prop- erty also zoned for apartment use. Now some of the individuals whom I represented as objectors in the other case two years ago are raising the point that my present attempt to have this other piece of property rezoned is a conflict of interest in violation of Canon No. 6.

We are told that the attorney no longer represents the individuals who objected to the first proposed zoning, and that in his opinion the present proposed representation does not involve any confidential information which might have been received in representing the objectors in the first matter. In sum, it is his opinion that there is no conflict between the present representation and the former representation.

However, a more detached view is that the inquirer initially represented a number of individuals opposing a proposed rezoning of a tract in proximity to their own property so that it might be utilized for apartment house construction. He is now asked by an owner of the property immediately adjacent to the tract which was first in controversy to likewise procure rezoning of this tract for precisely the same type of apartment house use. We are not told of any distinction between the two parcels other than the point in time at which their rezoning is sought. It is difficult to escape the impression that the attorney thus for all practical purposes, and certainly from the standpoint of ostensible appearance in the eyes of his former clients, would now be advocating one side of similar issues upon which he had formerly advocated the opposite side.

The majority of the Committee concludes that this would offend the letter of Canon 6, and those not persuaded that a conflict of interest is technically indicated join the majority in concluding that the proposed representation would be totally inconsistent with the spirit of Canon 6 and offensive to the best interests of the profession.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]