Case Details


Michigan Attorney General Required To File A Stipulation Of Substitute Counsel To Address Apparent Conflict Of Interest Where Attorney General Was Both Appellant And Counsel

Filing State



Michigan Court of Appeals




Granholm v. Michigan Public Service Commission, 243 Mich. App. 487, 625 N.W.2d 16 (Mich. App. 2000)


Where Attorney General is party to litigation (as distinguished from representing state agency), Attorney General must appoint independent counsel for agency that Attorney General is opposing.

Case Description

The Attorney General challenged a decision of the state Public Service Commission. The Commission was also represented by the Attorney General’s office. The Michigan Court of Appeals analyzed the applicability of conflict-of-interest rules to the Attorney General’s office and concluded that the Attorney General must appoint independent counsel for an agency if the Attorney General is an actual party opposing the agency. Turning to the question of the applicability of bar ethics rules to the Attorney General, the court held “while mechanical application of these [ethics] rules is not possible because of the unique nature of [the Attorney General’s] office, thus allowing dual representation in certain circumstances not otherwise permitted in the arena of private practice, the rules do recognize a clear conflict of interest when the Attorney General acts as a party litigant in opposition to an agency or department that she also represents in the same cause of action. In applying this rule to the Attorney General’s representation of state agencies, the court noted that it was not diminishing the powers of the Attorney General’s office to intervene as counsel for disputing state agencies, to defend the constitutionality of legislative enactments, or to act in an advisory role to state agencies or to initiate statutory review proceedings. The court also asserted that its ruling would assist the Attorney General in fulfilling her obligations to protect the public interest, because “disallowing dual representation frees her to vigorously pursue her chosen side of the litigation and thereby better serve the public interest, while at the same time ensuring independent representation for the state agency or department.”