Monday, January 5, 2015
Can Parental Defense Attorneys Communicate with DCFS Caseworkers?
At our Judge’s Panel Luncheon, a question came up regarding whether a parent attorney could attend a child and family team meeting or otherwise communicate with a DCFS caseworker without the presence of an AAG. The following advisory opinion offers the answer.
Utah Rules of Judicial Administration Chapter 13 Rule 4.2 prohibits contact of represented persons by attorneys unless authorized by law, rule, or court order.
In 1993, the advisory committee was asked in regards to the application of this rule in the context of agency employees and the Attorney General’s office.
The office provided the following opinion:
A lawyer representing a government department may not prevent his non-government counterpart from contacting any employee of the government office or department outside his/her presence, whether or not the communication involves a matter in litigation. However, if counsel for a private party contacts a government employee about pending litigation, counsel must inform the government employee (a) about the pending litigation or that the matter has been referred to agency counsel and (b) about his representation of a private party in that litigation.
Utah Ethics Adv. Op. No. 115 (1993).
This opinion was reaffirmed in July 1994 by Utah Ethic Adv.Op.No. 115R (1994).
In short, yes, a parental defense attorney can speak with the caseworker regarding the case--and even attend a family group meeting--without the AAG being present and without the AAG's permission, if the attorney discloses to the worker the existence of the litigation and discloses who the attorney represents.