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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 215

Adopted December 14, 1961

A member of the Bar acting as County Attorney, having been appointed pursuant to the provisions of 19 O.S.A. § 187, has submitted the following inquiry.

INQUIRY

May a member of the Bar who is appointed "Acting County Attorney" pursuant to the provisions of 19 O.S.A. § 187 maintain a law office and conduct a private practice in said separate office?

OPINION

The first part of the inquiry does not entirely involve a question of ethics, but also a question of statutory construction. However, there is available to us an opinion of Professor William R. Bandy directed to James Harrod, Esq. of the Code Procedure---Criminal Committee to the effect that an Acting County Attorney is not prohibited from engaging in the private practice of law during his tenure of office as such. We concur in Professor Bandy's construction of Sections 187 and 185 of Title 19.

We are further of the opinion that the Acting County Attorney not only may, but should, maintain a separate office in which to pursue his private practice.

We feel that we would be remiss if we did not add a word of caution--Private practice by a County Attorney is fraught with the possibility of the attorney's finding himself with a dual obligation and in violation of Canon 6. He should be most circumspect in the type of employment he accepts and take great care not to accept employment in any case where his duties as prosecutor might conflict.