81-F-18 - Representation of Law Enforcement Association

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 81-F-18

 

Pursuant to Section 26 of Rule 9 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the Board has been asked for a formal opinion as to whether the members of a firm which serves as general counsel for the Tennessee Law Enforcement Officers Association are disqualified from engaging in the practice of criminal law. As general counsel for the Association, the firm gives general corporate advice, tax advice, passes on compliance with governmental regulations, passes on the legality of death benefit claims, and engages in a general corporate practice insofar as the Association is concerned. It does not engage in the representation of individual officer members.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky recently held that an attorney who represents the Fraternal Order of Police in grievances and other civil matters may not practice criminal law in the same jurisdiction. In re: Advisory Opinion of Kentucky Bar Association, 613 S. W. (2d) 416. The Court went on to say:

It is fundamental that energetic representation of criminal defendants often entails vigorous cross-examination of police officers with an eye to discrediting their testimony. Presented with the dilemma of alienating a group of police officers on the one hand and providing a criminal defendant with the most energetic possible defense on the other, the attorney faces a conflict which seriously endangers his ability to zealously represent his client as is required by Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Canon 7 of Rule 8 of the Supreme Court requires that a lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law, and Canon 9 admonishes that a lawyer should avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety.

While we agree with the Kentucky Supreme Court's opinion, we do not believe that it is applicable to the facts here presented or that there is any reason why the firm members could not engage in the practice of criminal law in compliance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.

If a situation should develop where such criminal defendant representation might alienate the officers or directors of the Association, or jeopardize the corporate representation, then and in such event the Kentucky Supreme Court rule would apply.

This 26th day of August, 1981.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

Joseph G. Cummings
F. Evans Harvill
John R. Rucker

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD