Risk Update

Conflicts — Romantic Conflicts, Relationship Conflicts

Attorneys’ workplace romance could impact 300 Marysville court cases” —

  • “A Marysville prosecutor and a public defender could have compromised more than 300 cases by having a secret workplace relationship.”
  • “Sources confirm former city prosecutor Al Treacy and former public defender Marne Whitney were often on opposite sides of the same case, creating an obvious conflict of interest that was never divulged to co-workers or clients.”
  • “An internal investigation by city administrators recommended Treacy be fired. But in June, he resigned before that could happen. He was with the prosecutor’s office for 12 years.”
  • “A spokesperson for the firm told KING 5, ‘As soon as we learned of the inappropriate relationship between our employee and the Marysville City Prosecutor, we immediately terminated her employment and also reported her actions to the Washington State Bar Association.'”
  • “The pair worked on more than 300 misdemeanor cases together in Marysville. Those cases have all been reviewed to determine if any of them should be overturned.”
  • “Ken Kagan, an attorney representing Whitney, said there is no evidence that her clients were harmed in any way. In fact, Kagan said, ‘As a result of Ms. Whitney’s efforts in negotiating outcomes for her clients with Mr. Treacy, her clients actually did much better than they might have if they were represented by other lawyers.'”

A Fresh Look at Personal Interest Conflicts Involving Lawyers’ Relationships With Other Lawyers” —

  • “A recent ethics opinion from the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Formal Opinion 494 (Opinion 494) examines the meaning and scope of personal interest conflicts specifically in connection with lawyers’ relationships with opposing counsel, a hitherto often overlooked component of Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 1.7. In this article we will discuss the principal conclusions in the opinion, and the lessons it holds for New York lawyers.”
  • “When lawyers representing different clients in the same matter or in substantially related matters are closely related, there may be a significant risk that client confidences will be revealed and that the lawyer’s family relationship will interfere with both loyalty and professional judgment.”
  • “As a result, each client is entitled to know of the existence and implications of the relationship between the lawyers, before the lawyer agrees to undertake the representation. Thus, a lawyer who has a significant intimate or close family relationship with another lawyer ordinarily may not represent a client in a matter where that other lawyer is representing another party, unless each client gives informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(j).”
  • “The opinion next deals with imputation. Here the ABA Model Rule materially differs from the current New York Rule, in that the Model Rule provides that personal interest conflicts are not imputed. There is no such exception in place in New York. However, a proposal to change the New York Rule to remove imputation of personal interest conflicts has been proposed by the House of Delegates of the New York State Bar Association on the recommendation of the Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct, and is now before the Administrative Board…”
  • “While Opinion 494 is helpful in raising awareness of what constitutes a personal interest conflict in the context of relationships with other lawyers, it does not set out a clear process that lawyers may use to detect and resolve this (or any) kind of personal interest conflicts.”