Opinion removes many municipal court conflicts – In re Opinion 697

In today’s Supreme Court decision, In re Advisory Opinion 697, the Justices removed many of the potential conflicts that prevented attorneys with professional affiliations with municipalities from appearing in the municipal court of that municipality. As originally promulgated by the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, an attorney who was employed by an agency or board of a municipality was prohibited from appearing in municipality’s local court and representing defendants charged with traffic and quasi-criminal offenses. This prohibition came under the general policy of the so-called “municipal family doctrine.” However, the Supreme Court ruled today that since the Rules of Professional Conduct were amended in 2004 to eliminate the “appearance of impropriety” language, the current Rules do not necessarily prohibit an attorney who represents a municipal agency or board from representing clients in municipal court. Accordingly, under the procedure announced today, an attorney who represents a municipality (such as a city or township attorney) may not appear in municipal court or before other agencies of the municipality to represent private clients. However, if the attorney only represents an agency or board of the municipality, he or she may represent private clients in the municipality’s court, provided there is no other conflict that would limit the attorney’s ability to provide independent advice and representation to both the municipal entity and the private client.

Download a copy of Option 697.

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