FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
April 15, 1963
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
The failure of a lawyer to practice criminal law is not an excuse for failure to accept a court
appointment to represent an indigent criminal defendant. A lawyer refusing such an appointment
is subject to disciplinary action. A lawyer who withdraws from state court criminal practice but
continues federal court criminal practice is still obligated to accept such appointments.
Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar states that a local judge is assigning lawyers on
a rotating basis to represent indigent prisoners in criminal cases and poses several
questions as to acceptance of the responsibility.
Answering question No. 1, we do not feel that failure of a lawyer to practice criminal law
is an excuse for failure to accept such an appointment, and that he would violate Canon 4 by so
Answering question No. 2, we believe that a lawyer refusing to accept such an
appointment is subject to disciplinary action.
Answering question No. 3, we believe a lawyer who withdraws from state court criminal
practice, but continues federal court criminal practice, is still obligated to accept such
We believe that an effective system of screening indigents should be established and that
the indigent should be examined under oath as to his assets and ability to pay and should be
punished by contempt or perjury charges for false testimony.