The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 61-22

November 1, 1961
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A lawyer may not represent a husband in an action arising out of his wife’s death in an
automobile accident when the lawyer, in his capacity as coroner, was involved in a criminal
proceeding arising out of the same accident.

6, Judicial Canons 1, 13, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 34

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar inquires of the Professional Ethics Committee
concerning his representation of Mr. A in a suit for damages for the death of Mrs.
A resulting from an automobile accident in which he, as coroner, investigated the
accident, impaneled a jury, heard the evidence and received a verdict of culpable
negligence on the part of the driver. He therefore issued a warrant charging
manslaughter, the defendant appeared before him and waived preliminary hearing
and was bound over to the Circuit Court. Shortly after the accident and prior to
the several hearings, he met Mr. A and entered into a contract of employment to
represent Mr. A in a suit for damages, in which the member later associated an
additional lawyer. The question is whether he can legally or ethically represent
the widowed husband under the circumstances or whether he should withdraw
from the civil action.
With one member dissenting, the Committee is unanimous in its opinion that he should
immediately withdraw and sever all connections with the case. We feel that he has perhaps
violated the following canons of ethics: Canon 1 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics; Canon 13 of
the Canons of Judicial Ethics relating to influence; Canon 24 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics
relating to inconsistent obligations; Canon 25 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics relating to
business promotions; Canon 29 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics relating to self-interest; Canon
31 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics relating to private law practice; and Canon 34 of the Canons
of Judicial Ethics relating to a summary of judicial obligations. It is also possible that he has
violated Judicial Canons 27 and 28 and Canon 6 of the Canons of Professional Ethics relating to
adverse influences and conflicting interests.
Drinker, Legal Ethics, page 119, states: “A lawyer who is a justice of the peace may not
represent one charged with an offense, civil or criminal, in connection with which he has issued a