County Attorney as Guardian Ad Litem
Opinion rules that county attorney who occasionally advises the Department of Social Services may not act as guardian ad litem in child abuse cases
Attorney C is county attorney for County X. As county attorney, C represents the interests of the county at the direction of the five -member Board of Commissioners, who employ him at their pleasure. Occasionally, Attorney C is asked informal questions by County X's Department of Social Services' director. Attorney C is not attorney of record for the Department of Social Services. Nor does he participate as its attorney in any proceedings officially involving the Department of Social Services. However, County X, of course, does provide funding for the operation of the Department of Social Services.
Attorney C considered becoming an appointed Guardian Ad Litem in cases involving abused and neglected children. In some of these cases, the interests of the Department of Social Services may appear to conflict with those of the abused or neglected children. May Attorney C ethically serve as Guardian Ad Litem for abused and neglected children while serving as county attorney for County X?
No. Although Attorney C does not provide extensive legal services for the Department of Social Services, he does advise them from time to time in his capacity as county attorney. Therefore, he does have a conflict of interest preventing him from serving as Guardian Ad Litem in any proceeding in which the Department of Social Services is or may be involved. See Rule 5.1; see also CPR 171. Nor can he obtain valid, informed consent from the two clients involved. Thus, the representation is barred.