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Articles Posted in Lawyer Professional Conduct

Can an Attorney Represent Co-defendants? United States Supreme Court May Decide.

In many states, it is legal for two co-defendants in a crime to retain the same attorney. However, this is not the ideal situation because it is ripe for conflicts of interest. Co-defendants in a criminal case likely have information about the other defendant that can be detrimental to their case and will oftentimes “flip” on their codefendant. It can be difficult for an attorney to represent both codefendants competently and diligently as required. The American Bar Association advises against representing co-defendants, but there is no general law forbidding it. The Supreme Court could change this. The case of Holcombe v. Florida is pending before the Supreme Court and asks the Court whether an “actual” conflict of interest that adversely affects counsel’s representation when the attorney engages in “joint and dual” representation – i.e., simultaneously representing both the defendant and a key prosecution witness during a trial. 

What happened in Holcombe v. Florida?

A Massachusetts Attorney was reprimanded for a facebook post about his status.  Being friends with many lawyers in Massachusetts and all over the country, the attorney’s facebook post was typical of many attorney posts that I have seen on my newsfeed.  The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers found that this case violated the rules of professional conduct.

It seems so innocuous.  An attorney updates his public Facebook page stating: “Back in Boston after appearing in Berkshire Juvenile Court in Pittsfield on behalf of grandmother who was seeking guardianship of six-year-old grandson and was opposed by DCYF yesterday.  Next date – 10/23.” But is it so innocuous?  Is the Facebook post simply an update of the day in the life of an attorney? Or is it enough information to run afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct. On November 6, 2019, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) publicly reprimanded the attorney who wrote this post.

This is the type of situation every attorney must navigate daily. Social media forums allow attorneys to connect with potential clients, advertise the types of law practiced, comment on new case law, etc. Regardless of an attorney’s age, experience, or length of practice, an attorney is required to stay up to date on new technology (Rule 1.1).  In today’s world, it could be argued that Facebook, established in 2006, is not a new technology, and all attorneys should be aware of the pitfalls of any client-related posting on Facebook.

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