United States Office of Government Ethics, Preventing Conflicts of Interest in the Executive Branch

18 U.S.C. § 205: Activities of officers and employees in claims against and other matters affecting the Government

With some exceptions, 18 U.S.C. § 205 bars Government employees from representing anyone other than themselves on any matter before the executive branch or any court, if the United States is a party or has an interest. This bar extends even to pro bono (uncompensated) representations, unless those representations are within exceptions specified in the law.


An exception allows the employee to represent, without compensation:

  • Any person who is the subject of disciplinary, loyalty, or personnel administrative proceedings; and
  • Employee nonprofit organizations (such as child care centers, recreational associations, professional organizations, credit unions or other similar groups) before the U.S. Government under certain circumstances. The Government employee may not represent an employee group in claims against the Government, in seeking grants, contracts or cash from the Government, or in litigation where the group is a party.

Example of Practical Effect of 18 U.S.C. § 205

A Government employee works for the Department of Agriculture. Because of this statute, she may not call the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of a neighbor (even if she will not be paid by the neighbor) to ask for reduction of a penalty assessed against him for late payment.