Criminal Law, Oddstuff

Conflict of interest – extreme

This is interesting: can a lawyer represent a client who is accused of killing a(nother) client?

Lawyers are often accused as being  hired guns. To a certain degree, that is true.  Lawyers are not taking sides, they represent a case and it shouldn’t matter who the client is, though of course sometimes it does. The profession has acknowledged this and established Conflict of interest rules. Most of these rules are pretty obvious, for instance that a lawyer can not act for both sides.

In the case, the main argument was that, if the accused gets convicted, he could successfully appeal on the basis that the victim was a former client of his lawyer (ineffective representation). But that is not quite correct, is it? For example, if the lawyer had only dealt with the murdered client once and in an unrelated matter, why should he then not be able to act for the accused murderer? He might be as efficient and competent as any other lawyer who had never had any contact with the victim.

Still, one feels uneasy about it.  The real issue is, I guess, that no matter how much a lawyer is supposed to be independent and neutral, the fact is, we aren’t. Feelings, emotions, sympathies get in the way. A case is not just a collection of facts, it’s a story and we are writing part of it by representing one side. Once we have done that, we just can’t step into the story and rewrite it for someone else.  As a lawyer you are only as good as long as you are not involved – once you are, your objectivity goes out of the window.

And the client who might have killed one of your former clients isn’t just another client. You are already involved before you even met him.  That’s why he has to see someone else.

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