Thursday, March 17, 2011
This article addresses the question of a lawyers professional responsibility when a seemingly simple domestic relations case begins to turn into a major criminal catastrophe. Starting with ABA Model Rule 1.2(d) that an attorney “shall not counsel or assist in criminal or fraudulent conduct but may discuss the legal consequences of proposed conduct…”it analyzes the attorney’s responsibilities in the context of a hypothetical case involving hidden assets and misrepresented financial statements. Options to withdraw under Model Rule 1.16(b) are discussed along with the questions raised therefrom and the lawyer’s Model Rule 4.1(b) obligation not to knowingly fail to disclose material facts. From there the nightmare turns criminal as the hypothetical client is indicted raising issues ranging from emergency lawyering under Model Rule 1.1 to the lawyers own fees being subject to forfeiture. In conclusion it is nearly impossible to screen out every client who may bring criminal activities into family law representation. However, with careful research, clear communication, and documentation, a lawyer will be able to find a route out of the nightmare without being caught up in the criminal activity itself.