The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 69-7

March 28, 1970
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A lawyer may not represent one of the defendants in a declaratory judgment proceeding
instituted by him on behalf of a tax assessor to establish which defendant should be listed on the
tax roll as owner of certain property.

6 and 36

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar advises as follows:
A municipality and a large landowning corporation both claim title to one
and one-half miles of public beach in the south part of this county. The ownership
of the property was, and still is, disputed. The Tax Assessor was asked by each
claimant to list the property in its name and did neither, but listed it in the names
of both owners and filed a declaratory decree action seeking a ruling from the
Circuit Court as to which party owned the land so that it might be correctly listed
on county tax rolls.
I was the attorney for the Tax Assessor who advised him to list the property
in the name of both claimants and to file a declaratory decree action seeking
judicial determination of ownership. At the time the claims of ownership were
presented, both the municipality and the land developer corporation submitted
documentary proof of their claims of title, which were examined by me and upon
which I could make no conclusive determination of land ownership.
I have been asked again whether I could represent the municipality in the
declaratory decree suit to establish its claim for ownership of the land involved.
It is the opinion of the Committee that the provisions of Canon 6 and Canon 36 preclude
his representation of a municipality in a declaratory decree suit wherein he had previously
represented the tax assessor and had reviewed the title information relevant to the lands in
question during the time of his employment as counsel for the tax assessor.