December 24, 2010
"Barely Adequate" Sanction
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has accepted a referee's recommendation for sanction, concluding that a public reprimand was "barely adequate for the egregious conflict of interest" where an attorney had represented a criminal defendant after interviewing the victim as a potential client.
The attorney had received highly confidential information from a victim of sexual abuse of the part of a nun. The nun had been the victim's teacher, school principal and a family friend. The family consulted with the attorney about a possible civil suit, which the attorney declined to undertake because of statute of limitations problems.
The attorney thereafter represented the nun in ensuing criminal charges:
The referee made a number of factual findings, ultimately finding that [the] Attorney...did represent G.K. [the victim] and concluding there was a clear conflict of interest with respect to Attorney...'s representation of [the nun]. These findings included the fact that Attorney...knew that G.K. ——identified as a victim by [the nun] and in the criminal complaint——was the same individual Attorney...met with to discuss a possible civil case against [her]. Attorney...had received G.K.'s therapy records both when initially investigating the matter and then later as part of the discovery materials obtained from the district attorney in the...criminal matter. The police reports detailing the...abuse investigation also indicated that G.K. referred to Attorney...as his attorney.
Attorney...testified that he reviewed the supreme court rules regarding conflicts of interest and determined there was no conflict. He did not consider it necessary to obtain written permission from G.K. to represent [the nun]. The referee observed that Attorney...believed he met with G.K. out of professional courtesy and that was it. He did, however, acknowledge that he considered retaining another attorney if it became necessary to cross-examine G.K. in the...criminal proceeding.
The court also imposed continuing legal education requirements.
Details about the criminal case from JSO.Online may be found here. (Mike Frisch)
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