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The Florida Bar
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OPINION 74-45
March 6, 1975
An attorney serving as part-time city defender for the municipality may ethically defend private clients in criminal matters in state, county and municipal courts in the absence of a statute, ordinance or contract barring such activity.

Statute: F.S. §27.51(3)
Misc.: Fla. Atty. Gen. Op. 068-23, 068-31

Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee.

An attorney serves as a part-time city defender for a municipality, defending indigent persons two or three times a week. He asks whether he may with propriety defend private clients in criminal cases in state, county and municipal courts.

A majority of the Committee is of the opinion that such representation is proper in the absence of a statute, a municipal ordinance or a contract with the municipality barring such activity.

One Committeeman refers to Attorney General's Opinion 068-23 interpreting Section 27.51(3), Florida Statutes (no distinction under Section 27.51(3) between assistant public defender paid from state funds and one paid from county funds; neither can have private criminal law practice) and Attorney General's Opinion 068-31 (public defender cannot serve as city prosecutor as "otherwise engaging" in the practice of criminal law) [sic]. He questions whether there is any valid distinction between a public defender paid from state or county funds and one paid from municipal funds and is of the opinion that those interpretations of Section 27.51(3) may prohibit the inquiring attorney from engaging in a private criminal defense practice.




[Revised: 08-24-2011]