State Bar of Montana

Ethics Opinion

QUESTION PRESENTED: Can an employee of a state, such as a prosecutor, bring an action against the state without having a conflict of interest?

ANSWER: Depends on the action and the access to confidential information.

ANALYSIS: In this fact situation, the state employee works for the county. The requested lawsuit concerns a small contract in between a University and the state employee.

The basis of prohibited conflicts of interest is diminution of loyalty and the possibility of access to confidential information.

Neither basis applies here, where a state employee has a dispute over a personal contract with a state University. Additionally, to deprive the state employee of his constitutional right to access the courts would leave him without a remedy and drastically reduce his employment opportunities. There is no improper conflict of interest in this situation.



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