City Council Member as Client
Opinion rules that a lawyer who represents or has represented a member of the city council may represent another client before the council.
Editor's Note: This opinion was originally published as RPC 143 (Second Revision).
Attorney A represents X, a dairy farmer, whose entire property (including the milking machines but not the cows) is being condemned for a new airport by the city. Attorney A also represents Y, a landowner whose real estate was condemned in 1968 for the express purpose, as stated in the petition, of extending the runway and relocating state highway and public utility lines and other alleged matters of then public convenience and necessity concerning the old airport, which purposes were never undertaken.
The city recently had an election in which none of the incumbent council members who favored the new airport were reelected.
Mr. B who received about 70% of the vote to unseat an incumbent has now been scheduled for a hearing concerning his residency under G.S. §163-282 and G.S. §163-57.
Attorney A has been asked to consider appearing before the county board of elections on behalf of Mr. B.
Is it ethical for Attorney A to represent Mr. B concerning his residency when Attorney A has two legal matters pending involving the city which might come before Mr. B as one of six regularly voting members of the city council? Will Mr. B have to disqualify himself? If Attorney A handles some of Mr. B's real estate matters, can he appear before the city council or otherwise contact the city or its employees?
It is ethical for a lawyer to represent persons before an elected or appointed governing body following or during representation of a member of the governing body so long as the lawyer does not use his relationship to the member of the governing body to obtain favorable decisions from the body. Rule 1.2(d). The lawyer should also take care not to suggest that he has the ability improperly to influence the body on account of his representation of the member. Rule 1.2(e).