FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
January 20, 1965
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
Entry of a judgment and expiration of the appeal period does not automatically terminate the
attorney-client relationship. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s attorney may not communicate directly
with the defendant upon the subject of the controversy, with a view to settlement of the
judgment, until he has determined that the defendant is no longer represented by counsel.
Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:
In essence, a member of The Florida Bar inquires as to the propriety of an
attorney, acting on behalf of a plaintiff who has secured a judgment against a
defendant, contacting the defendant directly either by letter, telephone call or
personal contact rather than communicating with the attorney who represented the
defendant in the course of the litigation.
This appears to be an inquiry of first impression, and the Committee is not
unanimous in its response. For purposes of this response, the Committee has
assumed that the appeal period has expired.
It is the opinion of a majority of the Committee that entry of the judgment and expiration
of the appeal period do not automatically terminate the attorney-client relationship between the
defendant and his lawyer. In the opinion of the majority, there are many matters remaining to be
resolved from the point of view of the judgment debtor about which the debtor may continue to
consult his lawyer. The majority concludes, therefore, that the provisions of Canon 9 of the
Canons of Professional Ethics are still applicable and that counsel for the plaintiff should not
directly communicate with the defendant unless and until he has obtained consent from the
attorney who represented the defendant in the litigation.
Two members of the Committee believe that entry of the judgment and expiration of the
appeal period terminates the attorney-client relationship and that counsel for the plaintiff may
therefore communicate directly with the judgment debtor insofar as professional ethics are
involved. These Committee members, however, believe that the defendant’s attorney should
nevertheless be contacted as a matter of courtesy before counsel for plaintiff proceeds to deal
directly with the defendant.