FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
May 7, 1968
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
An attorney who unsuccessfully represented clients opposing rezoning of a tract may not
subsequently represent the owner of an adjacent tract who seeks similar rezoning, when that
action is again opposed by some of the former clients of the attorney.
Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar advises as follows:
Two years ago, I represented a group of objectors in a very active area in
_______________, Florida, whereby we were opposing the proposed zoning of a
7½ acre tract from one-acre EU zoning to apartment house use. I represented
some twenty or thirty people in the area, some close by, and some several hundred
feet away. My representation on behalf of the objectors before the Zoning
Appeals Board and before the County Commissioners was successful, and both
these Boards denied the rezoning. The attorney for the applicant then went to
court, the ___________ District Court of Appeals reversed the two lower Boards
and directed that the property be rezoned for apartment house use. This property
is across the street from extensive apartment houses and medical clinics and has
now become a very hot area.
Now I have been retained by another property owner in the area who owns a
tract of land right next to the original 7½ acre tract, and he has employed me to
file application with the _______________ County Zoning Appeals Board to have
the property also zoned for apartment use. Now some of the individuals whom I
represented as objectors in the other case two years ago are raising the point that
my present attempt to have this other piece of property rezoned is a conflict of
interest in violation of Canon No. 6.
We are told that the attorney no longer represents the individuals who objected to the first
proposed zoning, and that in his opinion the present proposed representation does not involve
any confidential information which might have been received in representing the objectors in the
first matter. In sum, it is his opinion that there is no conflict between the present representation
and the former representation.
However, a more detached view is that the inquirer initially represented a number of
individuals opposing a proposed rezoning of a tract in proximity to their own property so that it
might be utilized for apartment house construction. He is now asked by an owner of the property
immediately adjacent to the tract which was first in controversy to likewise procure rezoning of
this tract for precisely the same type of apartment house use. We are not told of any distinction
between the two parcels other than the point in time at which their rezoning is sought. It is
difficult to escape the impression that the attorney thus for all practical purposes, and certainly
from the standpoint of ostensible appearance in the eyes of his former clients, would now be
advocating one side of similar issues upon which he had formerly advocated the opposite side.
The majority of the Committee concludes that this would offend the letter of Canon 6,
and those not persuaded that a conflict of interest is technically indicated join the majority in
concluding that the proposed representation would be totally inconsistent with the spirit of
Canon 6 and offensive to the best interests of the profession.