The Florida Bar

May 7, 1968

An attorney may represent a corporate client in litigation to collect sums due under certain contracts although the corporation's president has been indicted for his activities related to the same or similar contracts, provided that the representation does not involve knowing assistance in a fraudulent or illegal scheme.

Canons: 15, 16, 41

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar advises as follows:

I am presently involved in civil matters of litigation as attorney for, and on behalf of, a corporation which I will designate for use in this letter as ABC Corporation. The President and principal officer is Mr. ABC. The litigation involves the collection of sums due under contracts signed by individuals for services rendered in assisting them in saving monies relative to ad valorem taxes. During the past few years, I have represented the corporation in the collection of funds under this type of contract.

The question has been brought to me as to what my position is under the following circumstances:

A. ABC, Individually, has had an indictment returned against him by the ___________ County Grand Jury.

B. The matters involved in the indictment, while unknown to me as to particularities, apparently seek to charge ABC with a crime or crimes emanating from services rendered under similar type contracts.

C. I, as attorney, while not representing ABC in any matters whatsoever involving the indictment, nevertheless am representing the corporation in the civil aspects in collecting monies due ABC corporation under similar type contracts.

D. There are several civil matters now pending.

Upon the foregoing facts the following question is asked:

If I have undertaken to handle civil litigation relative to the collection of funds due under contracts, and I learn that the principal officer of my corporate client has been indicted on a criminal charge involving perhaps the same, or at least similar type contracts, wherein his activities relative to the performance of services for which the funds to be collected were charged, can I proceed ethically with the civil litigation pending the disposition of the indictment and information thereunder.

In the absence of additional facts we are unable to furnish a definitive opinion. Certainly an attorney representing a client may ethically protect the legal rights of the client without regard to criminal liability of the client which might arise in other matters, nor in the same light must the attorney necessarily conclude that the existence of charges concerning a particular matter is the equivalent of guilt. Conversely, a lawyer must never knowingly promote or in litigation represent a client in asserting any fraudulent or illegal scheme or collecting the proceeds thereof.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]