Attorney General's Representation of Adverse Interests
Opinion rules that a member of the Attorney General's staff may prosecute appeals of adverse Medicaid decisions against the Department of Human Resources, which is represented by another member of the Attorney General's staff.
The N. C. Memorial Hospital is represented by a member of the Attorney General's staff. This attorney is assigned to the administrative section of the Attorney General's office, but is physically located at the hospital. The hospital attorney would like to pursue appeals of denials of Medicaid assistance on behalf of the hospital's patients. These appeals would be brought in the patients' names pursuant to agreements naming the hospital as the patients' attorney in fact.
The Medicaid appeals would be brought against the Department of Human Resources, which is represented by another member of the Attorney General's staff. The DHR attorney is physically located in Raleigh but is assigned to the same section of the Attorney General's office as the hospital attorney. Neither the DHR attorney nor the hospital attorney has access to the other's files.
May the hospital attorney handle the Medicaid appeals? Would the answer be different if the hospital attorney was assigned to a different section within the Attorney General's office?
The hospital attorney may represent the patients in Medicaid appeals, provided that there is no sharing of confidential information between the hospital attorney and the DHR attorney. Rule 5.11 imputes the disqualification of one attorney to other attorneys within the same law "firm." The term "firm" is not clearly defined within the rule. Although the comment suggests that the term should be read broadly, at least in some situations, it would be impractical to apply a broad reading of the term to government attorneys.