Advisory Opinion: 2033

Year Issued: 2003


Subject: City attorney and municipal court judge on contract from same firm

The inquirer asks, if his law firm that has a contract with a city to provide both city attorney and municipal court judge, may ethically provide such services under the following facts: 1) the city attorney advises the Mayor, City Clerk-Treasurer and Council, but not the civil functioning of the municipal court, 2) the city attorney does not assist in drafting nor provide advice with respect to town ordinances that may come before the municipal court judge, 3) advice and drafting of such ordinances are handled by an attorney not associated with the firm, 4) the municipal court only has jurisdiction over misdemeanors and infractions, 5) all misdemeanors and infractions will be prosecuted by outside counsel, 6) the city attorney will not appear before the municipal judge in any matter, 7) the city attorney does not advise the judge on the functioning of his or her court or the administration or operation of his or her office, including matters of municipal court personnel and contracts, 8) the city has been appraised of the potential conflicts and has consented in writing to the representation, and 9) the city attorney does not work with, appear before or otherwise interact with the Municipal Court Judge concerning City of “X” matters?

The committee opined that it can make no general statement as to the compliance or noncompliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct under the facts provided. The committee did wish to point out that there are substantial risks that require constant evaluation and monitoring on a case by case basis to insure compliance with the rules.
[editor`s Note: See related Informal Opinion 2003]


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.