Rules of Professional Conduct

1. Client-Lawyer Relationship

ER 1.11.     Special Conflicts of Interest for Former and Current Government Officers and Employees

(a) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer shall not represent a private client in connection with a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially as a public officer or employee, unless the appropriate government agency gives its informed consent, confirmed in writing, to the representation.  No lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in such a matter unless:

(1) the disqualified lawyer is screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and
 
(2) written notice is promptly given to the appropriate government agency to enable it to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this Rule.

(b) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer having information that the lawyer knows is confidential government information about a person acquired when the lawyer was a public officer or employee, may not represent a private client whose interests are adverse to that person in a matter in which the information could be used to the material disadvantage of that person.  A firm with which that lawyer is associated may undertake or continue representation in the matter only if the disqualified lawyer is screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom.
 
(c) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer serving as a public officer or employee shall not:

(1) participate in a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially while in private practice or nongovernmental employment, unless under applicable law no one is, or by lawful delegation may be, authorized to act in the lawyer's stead in the matter; or
 
(2) negotiate for private employment with any person who is involved as a party or as attorney for a party in a matter in which the lawyer is participating personally and substantially.

(d) As used in this Rule, the term "matter" includes:

(1) any judicial or other proceeding, application, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, controversy, investigation, charge, accusation, arrest or other particular matter involving a specific party or parties; and
 
(2) any other matter covered by the conflict of interest rules of the appropriate government agency.

(e) As used in this Rule, the term "confidential government information" means information which has been obtained under governmental authority and which, at the time this Rule is applied, the government is prohibited by law from disclosing to the public or has a legal privilege not to disclose, and which is not otherwise available to the public.

Comment

[1] This Rule prevents a lawyer from exploiting public office for the advantage of a private client.  It is a counterpart of ER 1.10(b), which applies to lawyers moving from one firm to another. 

[2] A lawyer representing a government agency, whether employed or specially retained by the government, is subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct, including the prohibition against concurrent conflicts of interest stated in ER 1.7 and the protections afforded former clients in ER 1.9.  In addition, such a lawyer is subject to ER 1.11 and to statutes and government regulations regarding conflicts of interest.  Such statutes and regulations may circumscribe the extent to which the government agency may give consent under this Rule.  It is the lawyer's duty to determine the individual or entity authorized to give informed consent on behalf of a governmental entity.  In most cases, the appropriate individual will be the chief legal officer for the governmental entity, for example the Attorney General, county attorney, or city attorney, as opposed to an agency head or managerial-level employee. 

[3] This Rule represents a balancing of interests.  On the one hand, where the successive clients are a government agency and another client, public or private, the risk exists that power or discretion vested in that agency might be used for the special benefit of the other client.  A lawyer should not be in a position where benefit to the other client might affect performance of the lawyer's professional functions on behalf of the government.  Also, unfair advantage could accrue to the other client by reason of access to confidential government information about the client's adversary obtainable only through the lawyer's government service.  On the other hand, the rules governing lawyers presently or formerly employed by a government agency should not be so restrictive as to inhibit transfer of employment to and from the government.  The government has a legitimate need to attract qualified lawyers as well as to maintain high ethical standards.  The provisions for screening and waiver in paragraph (b) are necessary to prevent the disqualification rule from imposing too severe a deterrent against entering public service.  Because of the special problems raised by imputation within a government agency, paragraph (c)(1) does not impute the conflicts of a lawyer currently serving as an officer or employee of the government to other associated government officers or employees, although ordinarily it will be prudent to screen such lawyers. 

[4] When the client is an agency of one government, that agency should be treated as a private client for purposes of this Rule if the lawyer thereafter represents an agency of another government, as when a lawyer represents a city and subsequently is employed by a federal agency.  The question whether two government agencies should be regarded as the same or different clients for conflict of interest purposes is beyond the scope of these Rules.  See ER 1.13, Comment [6]. 


[5] Paragraphs (a)(1) and (c)(1) contemplate a screening arrangement.  See ER 1.0(k) (requirements for screening procedures).  These paragraphs do not prohibit a lawyer from receiving a salary or partnership share established by prior independent agreement.  They prohibit directly relating the attorney's compensation to the fee in the matter in which the lawyer is disqualified.

[6] Notice, including a description of the screened lawyer's prior representation and of the screening procedures employed, generally should be given as soon as practicable after the need for screening becomes apparent.  When disclosure is likely to significantly injure the client, a reasonable delay may be justified. 

[7] Paragraph (b) operates only when the lawyer in question has knowledge of the information, which means actual knowledge; it does not operate with respect to information that merely could be imputed to the lawyer. 

[8] Paragraphs (a) and (c) do not prohibit a lawyer from jointly representing a private party and a government agency when doing so is permitted by ER 1.7 and is not otherwise prohibited by law.