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Howard Law Journal

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This Article focuses on the continuing debate on the ethical obligations of government lawyers: do government lawyers represent the people or do they represent a client? The Article explains that the dominant conception that government lawyers represent the people actually results in government lawyers representing themselves. After examining alternative approaches to determining the identity of the government lawyer’s client, the Article concludes that only one approach is consistent with both the ethical rules and our republican system of government. The government lawyer’s client properly understood is an elected official or, in certain cases, an agency head with legal authority independent of elected officials. As a general matter, through elections or law, the people have chosen these individuals - and not the government lawyer - to represent their interests. The only exception to this approach is the elected government lawyer whom the people have actually designated to represent their interests. The Article describes how the conflicts rules offer government lawyers a guide for determining their obligations when governmental clients disagree.