Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The New Jersey Supreme Court held today in a unanimous opinion that an attorney who had represented a juvenile charged with murder had "an intolerable conflict of interest" and thus provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to disclose to his client that he (the lawyer) was a defendant in a case being prosecuted by the same office that was handling the juvenile's case. The court found a per se conflict and that prejudice is presumed. There had not been disclosure and informed consent to the conflict. The attorney had been charged with criminal stalking and later was given pretrial diversion. The court states:
The stakes are high in a criminal case with the client's freedom often hanging in the balance. With so much on the line, an attorney's self-interest should never interfere with the duty of unstinting devotion to the client's cause. An attorney should never place himself in the position of serving a master other than his client or an interest in conflict with the client's interest. Surely, an attorney must never be perceived as having a reason to curry favor with the prosecutor's office at the expense of his client.