Representation of County While Suing Department of Social Services
Opinion rules that a lawyer employed to represent a county in appellate matters may also sue the county's department of social services.
Attorney A is retained by the county to represent the county with regard to matters in the appellate division of the general court of justice and tax issues associated with such appellate matters. Attorney A has not been employed to represent the county in any trial proceedings. Attorney A has no responsibility of any kind with regard to social services cases.
Clients B and C have approached Attorney A and requested that he represent them in regard to their federal claim against the county's department of social services for an alleged violation of their civil rights.
May Attorney A represent Clients B and C against the county's department of social services?
Yes, with the consent of both the county and Clients B and C. Generally speaking, a lawyer may not sue his or her own client in another matter even though the subject causes of action are unrelated. Rule 5.1(a). In the instant situation, however, Attorney A might reasonably conclude that his or her representation of the county in its appellate matters would not necessarily be adversely affected by his or her prosecution of a claim against the county's department of social services on behalf of Clients B and C. If that is Attorney A's conclusion, and if both his or her current and prospective clients consent after full factual disclosure, there is no ethical impediment to Attorney A's acceptance of the case against the department of social services. See CPR 179.