April 18, 1984
A law firm may not represent a client in one forum for restoration of driving privileges taken as a direct or indirect result of the same firm's prosecution, as city lawyer, of that person in a different forum.
References: MCPR Canon 5.
A law firm is retained as a city lawyer for two municipalities. The law firm in its capacity as city lawyer has charged persons with violations in district court resulting in the loss of their driving privileges. Some of these persons have requested that your law firm represent them in circuit court to petition for license restoration.
Given these circumstances, the issue presented is whether it is proper for a law firm to represent a client in one forum for restoration of driving privileges taken as a direct or indirect result of the same firm's prosecution, as city lawyer, of that person in a different forum.
This inquiry involves an interpretation of Canon 5, DR 5-105(B) which declares that it is professionally improper for a lawyer to undertake or continue multiple employment in the exercise of his independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the acceptance of the representation of another client or if it would be likely to involve him in representing differing interests.
"Differing interests" includes every interest that will adversely affect either the judgment or the loyalty of a lawyer to a client, whether it be a conflicting, inconsistent, diverse or other interest.
The proposed dual representation would be inconsistent with the "C" opinions and Canons. So long as the law firm represents a municipality as a city lawyer in the enforcement of ordinance and statutes in one forum, it is clearly improper for that same law firm to frustrate the interests of the municipality in another forum. The positions set forth in your inquiry are inherently antagonistic and this would be so irrespective of Canon 5.
Even though it is the privilege of the law firm, as city lawyer, to continue in the private practice of law during its terms of office, this in no way alters the conclusion. Under these circumstances, a law firm cannot represent both the public and the defendant. It follows that one partner or associate has accomplished in another forum. The effect of such practice would be harmful to the public interest whose protection and promotion is the foremost obligation of the city lawyer.