RPC 1.7; 5.2; RCW 74.20A.030
Conflict of interest; DSHS lawyer completing appeal form after determination of child support for obligor parent
The facts of the inquiry are as follows: the Dept. of Social and Health Services (DSHS) hires lawyers as claims officers who represent the Division of Child Support in establishing and collecting child support pursuant to RCW 74.20A.030. A recent change to the Washington Administrative Code modifies the appellate notice requirements so that, rather than submitting a written notice to the Office of administrative Hearings, parents may verbally inform an employee of the Division of Child Support (DCS) of their intention to appeal. This has resulted in a policy change requiring DCS lawyers to complete a form that includes a section in which the lawyer drafts the basis for appeal on behalf of the parents wishing to appeal.
It is the committee’s opinion that the preparation of appellate documents for an aggrieved parent is a violation of RPC 1.7. The committee also believes that RPC 5.2 binds a lawyer to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct even though directed by another lawyer to the contrary.