March 18, 1983
It is improper for an assistant prosecuting attorney employed in one county to represent respondents charged in criminal cases in other counties of this state.
References: MCPR DR 8-101; Op 193.
An assistant county prosecutor wishes to defend a sibling on a criminal charge of littering being prosecuted in the district court by the county prosecutor's office.
Op 193 concluded that it is improper for a prosecuting attorney of one county to represent defendants in criminal cases in other counties of this state. A lawyer holding public office to simultaneously engage in the private practice of law, however, MCPR DR 8-101 admonishes the public official not to use the public position to obtain, or attempt to obtain, a special advantage on behalf of a client or otherwise use his or her public position to influence, or attempt to influence, an adjudicatory body to act favorably on behalf of a client.
The Prosecutor's Office has discretion to bring formal criminal charges against an individual and further, has the power to withdraw those charges. The primary duty of a prosecutor is to represent the interests of the public which necessarily involves the cooperation and assistance of prosecuting authorities in counties throughout the state. If a prosecutor in one county could serve as defense counsel in another county, it is likely that a dismissal of the charge may be regarded as a form of professional courtesy contrary to the best interests of the public and the proper enforcement of criminal jurisprudence.