The Florida Bar

January 5, 1966

The law partner of an assistant state attorney may not engage in criminal defense practice.

Canon: 6
Opinions: ABA 16, 30, 33, 49, 50, 72, 142, 186

Chairman Kittleson stated the opinion of the committee:

Under prevailing policies established by The Florida Bar Board of Governors, the Committee on Professional Ethics is not allowed to give opinions to local bar associations or local grievance committees. In fact, the Ethics Committee is authorized only to give opinions to members of The Florida Bar in good standing, concerning their own present or proposed conduct. If local grievance committees desire advice on questions of professional ethics, they may direct the request to the Board of Governors, who will assign the request, or otherwise take action upon it, as the Board sees fit.

The inquiring attorney indicated that the local grievance committee, of which he is chairman, is faced with the question: may a law partner of an assistant state attorney engage in criminal defense practice, and, if so, in what courts?

The partner of a public prosecutor may not represent defendants in criminal cases within the jurisdiction of the prosecutor; it is clearly unethical for one member of the firm to oppose the interests of the state while the other member represents those interests. ABA Opinion 16 (1929). It is improper for an assistant prosecutor to defend a client in a criminal case, and also improper for his law partner to do so. ABA Opinion 142 (1935). A public prosecutor should not represent criminal defendants even in another state. ABA Opinion 30 (1931). Even a county attorney, who represents the county government in civil matters only, should not represent criminal defendants in that county. ABA Opinion 186 (1938). The relations of partners in a law firm are so close that the firm and all the members thereof are barred from accepting any employment that any one member of the firm is prohibited from taking. ABA Opinion 72 (1932); ABA Opinion 50 (1931); ABA Opinion 49 (1931); ABA Opinion 33 (1931).

[Revised: 08-24-2011]