Friday, December 18, 2009
It's rather unusual to see a lawyer disciplined for misconduct in connection with the representation of another lawyer in a bar discipline case. An Arizona hearing officer has recommended a censure and probation for one year in such a matter. The lawyer was close to a couple who acted as his surrogate parents. The couple had a daughter who married someone that the lawyer knew from law school. The lawyer was representing the husband in a pending bar matter (eventually dismissed) when he undertook to represent the wife in a divorce action against the husband, his current client.. He tried to withdraw from the bar case, "as he believed he had a greater ethical duty to [the wife]." The husband refused to consent to the withdrawal. Eventually the lawyer withdrew from the divorce case.
The lawyer then undertook a second bar case for the husband. While that matter was pending, the lawyer advised but did not formally represent the wife in preparing a second divorce action and appeared on her behalf at a pretrial conference. He also entered an appearance for her in a criminal domestic violence case brought by the husband. The lawyer also had improper ex parte contacts with the judge in connection with protection orders entered against the husband.
The hearing officer found that the representation of wife was directly adverse to husband, an already existing client: "Respondent was engaged in a series of events wherein he represented several old friends in conflicting circumstances....this case is very convoluted, and has several twists and turns...[he] now understands that his loyalty to the Eicher family and his attempts to remain friends with [the husband] are mutually incompatible." (Mike Frisch)