The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 67-52

April 4, 1968
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A county attorney whose duties relate only to civil matters may defend a person charged with
crime in his county when the county commissioners have no control or supervision over the
court, the clerk, the bailiff or police officers.

6, Additional Rule 25
59-10, 60-22

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:
We are asked by a member of The Florida Bar who has been concerned about an article
entitled “Ethical Considerations for City Attorneys,” appearing in the November 1967 issue of
The Florida Bar Journal, whether while serving as a county attorney he may defend a person
charged with crime in that county. He advises that his duties relate only to civil matters. In our
Opinion 60-22 [since withdrawn] it is stated that “if the Board of County Commissioners has
control or supervision of the Court, the Clerk, Bailiff, or Police Officers who constitute the usual
witnesses against the defendant, the County Attorney should not represent the defendant.”
We are satisfied that in this instance the County Commissioners have no such control of
any effective sort over any of these type persons. Moreover, as we have pointed out in our
Opinion 59-10, there is no impropriety in a member of the Bar who is a county commissioner
trying a case before a circuit judge whose allotment of space, departmental budget, supplemental
salary are controlled by the county commission. Thus, in our judgment the cited language from
Opinion 60-22 was necessarily limited to such facts as might have been before the Committee at
that time and cannot be construed to generally apply to all county attorneys and more particularly
to the one propounding the inquiry in question. Accordingly we conclude that the inquirer may
properly represent the clients in question.
The Committee takes note that it has also received general inquiries concerning other
portions of the cited article in The Florida Bar Journal, including in particular portions of the
article relating to various opinions of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the American Bar
Association. We emphasize that despite our great respect for the Committee of the American Bar
Association its opinions are in no way binding upon members of The Florida Bar and at most are
persuasive. We also take this occasion to emphasize that such opinions of this Committee as may
have been cited in the article were necessarily confined, just as was Opinion 60-22, to particular
facts then before the Committee. Rather than undertake a general reassessment of various
opinions rendered by past committees on particular situations then before the Committee, which
reassessment would in all likelihood contravene the policy of the Board of Governors limiting
this Committee to rendering advisory opinions to members of The Florida Bar concerning their
own proposed conduct, we suggest that interested members of the Bar submit to us any specific
questions which they might have in this area. The Committee would then be in position to render

such opinion as might seem to be the appropriate one in the light of the circumstances then
We again emphasize that we are not aware that any opinion of this Committee cited in the
subject article was intended by the Committee as then constituted to constitute a general
dissertation applicable to all circumstances and events pertaining to the handling of civil and
criminal cases for private clients by attorneys who on occasion might represent public bodies.