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Public Service

Rule 6.6 Action as a Public Official

A lawyer who holds public office shall not:

(a) use his or her public position to obtain, or attempt to obtain, a special advantage in legislative matters for himself or herself or for a client under circumstances where the lawyer knows, or it is obvious, that such action is not in the public interest;

(b) use his or her public position to influence, or attempt to influence, a tribunal to act in favor of himself or herself or his or her client; or

(c) accept anything of value from any person when the lawyer knows or it is obvious that the offer is for the purpose of influencing the lawyer's action as a public official.

Comment

[1] Lawyers often serve as legislators or as holders of other public offices. This is highly desirable, as lawyers are uniquely qualified to make significant contributions to the improvement of the legal system. A lawyer who is a public officer, whether full or part time, should not engage in activities in which the lawyer's personal or professional interests are or foreseeably may be in conflict with his or her official duties.

History Note:  Statutory Authority G. 84-23

Adopted July 24, 1997; Amended March 1, 2003.

ETHICSOPINIONNOTES

CPR 177. An attorney on the county board of health may not represent a client before such board, but he may resign and represent the client if he acquired no relevant confidential information while on the board.

CPR 189. An attorney member of the city council with control over the police department may not represent a criminal defendant when a police officer is a prosecuting witness.

CPR 231. An attorney-legislator may represent a criminal defendant when a State highway patrolman is the prosecuting witness.

CPR 233. An attorney member of the city council with control over the police department may not represent a criminal defendant when a police officer is a prosecuting witness even if he withdraws from consideration of the budget.

CPR 263. An emergency judge may not practice law.

CPR 290. An attorney who serves as a member of a county or municipal governing board, or State or federal legislative body, or any entity thereunder, or committee thereof, shall not hear or consider any matter coming before that governing body or entity in which that member or his firm has any direct or indirect interest.

Pursuant to such prohibition, it shall be unethical for that member to attempt to influence in any way, publicly or privately, the actions or decisions of the governing body or entity or its staff with respect to any matter on which his partner or associate is appearing.

If an attorney or his employee serves as a member of a county or municipal governing board, or State or federal legislative body of any entity thereunder, or committee thereof, it shall be unethical for his partner, associate or employer to represent such governing body or entity.

It is not unethical as such for an attorney whose spouse or relative is on any county or municipal governing board, or State or federal legislative body, or any entity thereunder, or committee thereof, to appear before or represent that governing body or entity. However, it is unethical for an attorney to use his relationship to a member of any governing board to gain (or retain) employment or obtain favorable decisions. ( But see  RPC 130)

CPR 327. An attorney who serves on per diem basis as a hearing examiner for a public agency may not participate in hearings on behalf of clients before other examiners. His partners and associates may not appear before him, but may appear before other hearing examiners. If the attorney-examiner is appointed to the full board he may not appear before the board under any conditions. His partners should abide by CPR 290.

CPR 335. An attorney-magistrate may privately practice law. He may not appear in any criminal case, in any civil case originating in the small claims court in his county, or in any case with which he had any connection as a magistrate.

CPR 360. An attorney may counsel a quasi-judicial board and also act as a hearing examiner rendering decisions appealable to the same board during the same time span, but may not act in both capacities in the same case.

RPC 53. Opinion rules that a lawyer may sue a municipality although his partner serves as a member of its governing body.

RPC 63. An attorney may represent the school board while serving as a county commissioner with certain restrictions.

RPC 73. Opinion clarifies two lines of authority in prior ethics opinions. Where an attorney serves on a governing body, such as a county commission, the attorney is disqualified from representing criminal defendants where a member of the sheriff's department is a prosecuting witness. The attorney's partners are not disqualified.

Where an attorney advises a governing body, such as a county commission, but is not a commissioner herself, and in that capacity represents the sheriff's department relative to criminal matters, the attorney may not represent criminal defendants if a member of the sheriff's department will be a prosecuting witness. In this situation the attorney's partners would also be disqualified from representing the criminal defendants.

RPC 95. An assistant district attorney may prosecute cases while serving on the school board.

RPC 105. A public defender may represent criminal defendants while serving on the school board.

RPC 130. An attorney may accept employment on behalf of a governing board upon which his or her partner sits if such is otherwise lawful.

2002 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that a lawyer may represent a party suing a public body or non-profit organization, although the lawyer's partner or associate serves on the board, subject to certain conditions.

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