Advisory Opinion: 1894

Year Issued: 1999

RPC(s): RPC 1.7; 5.2; RCW 74.20A.030

Subject: 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.

***

Advisory Opinions are provided for the education of the Bar and reflect the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics (CPE) or its predecessors. Advisory Opinions are provided pursuant to the authorization granted by the Board of Governors, but are not individually approved by the Board and do not reflect the official position of the Bar association. Laws other than the Washington State Rules of Professional Conduct may apply to the inquiry. The Committee's answer does not include or opine about any other applicable law other than the meaning of the Rules of Professional Conduct.