Utah State Bar
Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee
Opinion Number 14-05
Issued December 22, 2014
- When an Attorney (A) is representing another Lawyer (L) in a legal malpractice or disciplinary action, and Lawyer L undertakes to represent a client in a matter adverse to a client of Attorney A, what are the ethical considerations?
2. Attorney A representing a Lawyer L in a disciplinary or legal malpractice matter may face a concurrent conflict of interest if the Lawyer L (client) represents an individual who is an opposing party to a client represented by Attorney A. A concurrent conflict of interest would arise if there is a significant risk that Attorney A’s representation of Lawyer L be will materially limited by her responsibilities to the client being sued by Lawyer L’s client; or if there is a significant risk that Attorney A’s representation of a client against Lawyer L’s client will be materially limited by her representation of Lawyer L. Whether this situation poses a serious risk of materially limiting Attorney A’s representation requires analyzing the factual situations presented.
(Approved April 17, 1998)
Issue: May a private practitioner who has been appointed as special deputy county attorney to investigate and prosecute a single matter continue to represent criminal defendants in any jurisdiction in Utah?
Opinion: No. Even assuming such conduct is permitted by Utah statute, Rule 1.7(a) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct and the reasoning of Utah Ethics Opinion No. 126 prevent a special deputy county attorney from representing criminal defense clients in any jurisdiction in the State. In addition, Rule 1.10 prohibits any member of the special deputy’s law firm from representing criminal defendants in any jurisdiction in the State during the period of the appointment. (more…)
(Approved October 30, 1998)
Issue: Members of a county attorney’s office have requested an advisory opinion concerning conflicts between (1) attorney-client relationships between a county attorney and county officers and (2) statutory duties of a county attorney under Utah Code Ann. § 17-5-206 to institute suits to recover or restrain unlawful payments of county funds.
Opinion: If a current attorney-client relationship exists between a county attorney or a deputy county attorney and a person who may be a defendant in an action under Utah Code Ann. § 17-5-206 to recover or restrain unlawful payments of county funds, the attorney with such an attorney-client relationship may not ethically participate in such an action, whether by way of investigation, evaluation, filing, prosecution, direction, supervision, or otherwise.1The rules of imputed disqualification of Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.10 do not apply to the office of a full-time county attorney, so that individual county attorneys or deputy county attorneys who are free from conflicts in the matter may participate in actions under § 17-5-206, provided that appropriate screening procedures are established and maintained. Past representations by individual members of a county attorney’s office must be evaluated for conflicts under the provisions of Rule 1.9. (more…)
(Approved October 30, 1998)
Issues: Is the Office of the Guardian ad Litem sufficiently similar to the Attorney General’s Office to render it a “government agency” within the meaning of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, and if so, does Rule 1.10 concerning imputed disqualifications, apply to the Office of the Guardian ad Litem? Does Rule 1.11, “Successive Government and Private Employment,” apply to the Office of the Guardian ad Litem?
Opinion: Both rules apply to the Office of the Guardian ad Litem. For purposes of Rule 1.10 the Office of the Guardian ad Litem is a “firm,” but the Office of the Guardian ad Litem’s government sponsorship and statutory duties also make that office a “government agency” for Rule 1.11 application. Under the Rules, the terms “firm” and “government agency” are not mutually exclusive and, in certain cases as with the Office of Guardian ad Litem both terms apply. Application of Rule 1.10 and Rule 1.11 serves to maintain confidentiality without unduly hampering the Office of the Guardian ad Litem from performing its duty to protect the best interests of children through hiring qualified attorneys. (more…)
(Approved January 26,1996)
Issue: May a law partner of a part-time justice court judge represent criminal defendants in the judicial district in which the justice of the peace sits?
Facts: A and B are partners or associates of law firm X. A sits as a justice court judge on a part-time basis in the town of T. B’s practice involves representation of criminal defendants in the town of W (and perhaps several others) but not in the town of T. T and W are in the same Utah judicial district.
Analysis: First, it should be clear that B cannot appear before A. This would constitute “conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice”3and would surely result in A’s violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.4 (more…)