October, 1969

FEE FOR DEFENDING INDIGENT PARTY—An attorney appointed to defend an indigent defendant in a criminal case may accept partial fee from the family, as well as fee from the Court, so long as full disclosure is made.

Canon 35.


An attorney is appointed by the Court to defend an indigent in a criminal case, After the appointment it is learned that the family of the defendant can raise a certain amount of money for the payment of attorney's fees. They desire the Court-appointed attorney to continue the defense of the case since the amount of money they can raise is not sufficient to hire another attorney. Therefore, the Court will not release the Court-appointed attorney from his appointment.

1. Is it unethical for the attorney to allow the family of the defendant to pay a substantial fee for the defense of the case, although the same is not sufficient to compensate the attorney for his services?

2. If the attorney accepts payment from the family, would it be unethical for the attorney to accept a fee from the county; which is a customary fee paid by the county to Court-appointed counsel in cases of this nature?


Canon 35 prohibits a member from accepting compensation from others without the full knowledge and consent of his client after full disclosure. Therefore, if a full disclosure is made to the defendant, the defendant's family and the Court, the attorney may accept fees from the family, as well as from the county; so long as the total fee is not excessive and is not above a reasonable fee as determined by Canon 11. See ABA Informal Opinion C-733. See also Drinker on Legal Ethics 62-63.