81-F-12(a) - DHS Prosecutor Representing Defense Clients

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 81-F-12(a)

 

Subsequent to the issuance of Opinion 81-F-12, the attorney requesting the opinion has notified the Board of additional facts relative to the case, and requested further consideration of the issues.

The additional information furnished by the inquiring attorney is that the representation of putative fathers in connection with disputed paternity cases under a program of the Social Security Administration, administered through the Tennessee Department of Human Services, would require that the attorney representing the putative father attack the statutory and constitutional bases of the entire paternity program, as well as the manner in which the Department of Human Services handles welfare cases and assignment of paternity claims. This would necessitate his taking an adversarial position against officials within the Welfare Department with whom he must deal, as their attorney, in his representation of the State of Tennessee.

These additional facts clearly reveal a conflict of interest between representation of the state agency and representation of the putative fathers.

As stated in Opinion 81-F-12, Canon 5 requires that an attorney shall exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client, and such judgment shall be exercised solely for the benefit of the client and free of compromising influences and loyalties.

The additional facts cited by the inquiring attorney reveal the presence of compromising influences and loyalties which create a conflict of interest.

This 12th day of August, 1981.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

Randall Burcham
W. H. Lassiter
George E. Morrow

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD