CEO 84-110 -- November 29, 1984
APPLICABILITY OF DISCLOSURE LAW TO ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY NOT ADMITTED TO FLORIDA BAR
To: Mr. Bruce H. Colton, Chief Assistant State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit
An Assistant State Attorney who has not been admitted to the Florida Bar but who has been certified as a legal intern to appear in court is a "specified state employee" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests under Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes.
Is an assistant state attorney who has not been admitted to the Florida Bar but who has been certified as a legal intern to appear in court a "specified state employee" subject to the requirement of filing a statement of financial interests?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides that each "specified state employee" is to file a statement of financial interests within thirty days from the date of employment and annually thereafter. Section 112.3145(2)(b), Florida Statutes (1983). The term "specified state employee" is defined to include:
Public counsel created by chapter 350; an assistant state attorney; an assistant public defender; a full-time state employee who serves as counsel or assistant counsel to any state agency; a deputy commissioner; or a hearing officer. [Section 112.3145(1)(b)1, Florida Statutes (1983).]
In your letter of inquiry and in a telephone conversation with our staff, you have advised that the Office of State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit has employed two individuals as Assistant State Attorneys who have not yet been admitted to the Florida Bar. This is permitted under Article XVIII of the Integration Rule of the Florida Bar, which allows certified law students to appear in court as part of certain internship programs and which allows certified law school graduates to appear in court for the attorney general, a state attorney, a public defender, or a legal aid organization before admittance to the Florida Bar for a period of one year.
You have advised that these individuals are classified as assistant state attorneys for pay and classification purposes, although they are not authorized to sign pleadings, motions, or charging documents. When permitted by a judge, they are authorized to appear in court without a supervising attorney being physically present, but they cannot file an information or dismiss a case and do not appear before a grand jury.
In our view, the classification of these individuals is the most significant factor in our determination. The financial disclosure law provides without ambiguity that each assistant state attorney shall file financial disclosure. As these individuals hold the position of "assistant state attorney," and handle at least some of the work of an assistant state attorney pending their admission to the Florida Bar, we must conclude that they are assistant state attorneys for purposes of the financial disclosure law.
Accordingly, we find that certified legal interns holding the position of assistant state attorney prior to admission to the Florida Bar are "specified state employees" subject to the requirement of filing statements of financial interests within thirty days of employment and annually thereafter as provided in Section 112.3145, Florida Statutes.