February 19, 2012
Chambers Disclosures Violated Duty Of Confidentiality
The Colorado Hearing Board has concluded that a criminal defense attorney violated his obligation of confidentiality during two in camera chambers conferences with the judge presiding at the trial. The attorney was suspended for a year and a day, with the suspension stayed in favor of a two year period of probation.
The attorney and his law partner represented a client charged in a $1.2 million theft from her employer.
The first conference was initiated by the attorney prior to jury selection. He advised the judge that his client had rejected his advice to accept a plea deal. He opined that his client was competent and sane, but that her choice to go to trial was a "very, very poor one." He did assure the judge that he would nonetheless "carry on with dignity."
The second chambers conference took place during the prosecution's case-in-chief. The attorney told the judge that he was subjected to the "perhaps the most vicious attack I've ever had from a client saying I'm not fighting for her."
He failed to advise the client that he had made these statements.
The client was convicted. The conviction was reversed when the disclosures came to light. After the remand, the client pleaded guilty to one count of theft and was sentenced to seven years.
The hearing board found that the attorney had a conflict of interest and that the failure to tell the client of the discussions violated his duties of honesty and communication.
According to the hearing board, the conduct was an "affront to the fundamental professional duties of communication, loyalty, and honesty [the attorney] owed to his client." (Mike Frisch)
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