The Florida Bar

September 13, 1971

A lawyer who is also a city councilman may represent a client in a civil matter related to an accident investigated by one of the city's police officers as the lawyer will not need to challenge or impeach the testimony of the officer.

CPR: EC 5-21
Opinion: 71-12

Chairman Massey stated the opinion of the committee:

An inquiring member of The Florida Bar seeks advice on whether he, as an attorney and also a city councilman, may represent an injured party in a civil matter wherein the police officer investigating the accident involved is an officer of the same municipality as the attorney-councilman.

As a normal rule, there is nothing improper in the representation, notwithstanding the fact that the policeman is from the same city. There may be some instances wherein the representation could become improper. These could occur should the attorney-councilman be required to attempt to impeach the policeman's testimony or were there circumstances of a peculiar nature wherein the policeman might feel he was under pressure to color his testimony in behalf of the attorney-councilman. Ordinarily, however, a policeman is called to establish measurements, occupancy of vehicles and other scene-of-accident facts which cannot be in serious dispute, and from this general viewpoint of testimony, no impropriety exists. The Committee suggests the inquirer must evaluate whether he would assault the policeman's testimony or place the policeman in an embarrassing position because of the attorney's position with the same city. For general controlling principles, see EC 5-21 and Florida Opinion 71-12.

The attorney further asks if he may ethically represent a prosecuting witness as to a traffic accident or the defendant charged in a traffic accident in a municipality other than that wherein he is a city councilman. In the event the investigating police officer from the attorney-councilman's city is to testify, he should avoid the representation even though the municipal court proceeding is in a different city. However, other than this restriction, there is no ethical reason why the attorney-councilman cannot represent a defendant or witnesses in such court proceedings.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]