Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1383

   Conflicts--Criminal/Civil Clients: Criminal Defense Attorney
Representing Civil Clients in Matter When Commonwealth's Attorney
is Nominal Party as Trustee of Land 

You have advised that an attorney who does a fair amount of
criminal defense work also represents two clients in a civil
matter pending litigation regarding property owned by the clients
in a Virginia Land Trust in which the trustee named is an
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney.  Although, as trustee, the
Commonwealth's Attorney is a named party in the lawsuit together
with the town, you have stated that the Assistant Commonwealth's
Attorney has no beneficial interest whatsoever in either the real
estate or the litigation in question.  

You wish to know whether it is proper for the attorney to
continue to represent the clients in the civil law suit in which
the Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney is a named adverse party.

The appropriate and controlling Disciplinary Rules relative to
your question are DR 5-101(A) and DR 5-105(A), (B) and (C). 
Disciplinary Rule 5-101(A) provides that a lawyer shall not
accept employment if the exercise of his professional judgment on
behalf of his client may be affected by his own financial,
business, property, or personal interests, except with the
consent of his client after full and adequate disclosure under
the circumstances.  In addition, since the attorney undertakes
criminal defense work and, as such, opposes the Assistant
Commonwealth's Attorney from time to time, DR 5-105(A), (B) and
(C) would require the attorney to consider whether he should
decline or continue employment on behalf of the property owners
while continuing to defend clients against the Commonwealth's
charges.  A lawyer may represent multiple clients if it is
obvious that he can adequately represent the interest of each and
if each consents to the representation after full disclosure of
the possible effect of such representation of the exercise of his
independent professional judgment on behalf of each.  See DR

Under the facts you have stated, the committee assumes that the
attorney representing the two clients in the civil property
matter is not simultaneously representing the Assistant
Commonwealth's Attorney/Trustee in the same matter.  Assuming
that, the committee is of the opinion that there would be no
impropriety in continuing to represent the clients since the
attorney is neither representing two adverse clients, i.e., the
property owners and the trustee, nor representing the Assistant
Commonwealth's Attorney while simultaneously defending clients
against prosecution by the same Assistant Commonwealth's
Attorney.  Conversely, the committee believes that should the
attorney be representing the Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in
the property matter, it would be improper for the attorney to
continue to defend clients before the prosecutor who is the
attorney's client, albeit in unrelated litigation, and similarly
improper for the Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney to prosecute
cases where defendants are represented by the same attorney.  SeeLEO #789. 

Committee Opinion
October 1, 1990

Affirmed and Clarified
November 15, 1990