Ethics for Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys
All the practitioners in the legal field are expected to conduct themselves within the confines of the legal and ethical code of conducts. These codes of conduct were designed by the attorneys’ professional bodies to ensure that there is uniformity of practice and also to act as a guide for the practitioners in the legal field. Key among the rules in the code of conduct is the adherence to the attorney-client confidentiality agreements. However, other rules are also enshrined in the legal and ethics codes of conduct. A prosecutor or defense legal counsel who breaks any of these laws suffers some penalties. The penalty imposed may vary in severity depending on the nature of the misconduct (Nicolson, 2005).
For the purpose of our discussion on the ethics of prosecutors and defense attorneys, we will examine two cases in which a defense attorney broke the attorney professional code of conduct and another one in which a prosecutor broke the attorney professional code of conduct. A legal article carried in the Thomson Reuters News & Insight shows how two defense attorneys flouted the attorney professional code of conduct. According to this article, the two defense lawyers; Hal Uhrig and Craig sooner may have committed a series of professional misconducts by holding the press conference in which they exposed some materials information concerning Mr. Zimmerman; their now former client (Frankel, 2012). This move by the two defense counsel has been construed by many law experts to be professional suicide.
Uhrig and Sooner called a press conference in which they announced that they were dropping George Zimmerman as a client. The defense lawyers cited Mr. Zimmerman’s refusal to pick their call coupled with his reaching out to the media and the prosecutor without their knowledge as the reason behind their withdrawal from representing him. This press conference generated heated debates within Florida’s law society with the two lawyers being castigated fort their lack of professional decorum in dealing with their client’s refusal to cooperate.
In this case, it is alleged that the defense attorneys broke the professional code of conduct by revealing information which related to their representation. The defense counsel told the media that their client was behaving in a manner difficult for them to keep representing him in the case. The attorneys’ revelation that their client had approached the prosecutor and the media without their knowledge constituted the revelation of material on their representation which is prohibited by Florida’s rules that govern the professional conduct of attorneys. Additionally, the defense attorneys also erred in publicly revealing the mental state of their client (Frankel, 2012). This move would impart adverse effects on the trial as the case might face some prejudice. Furthermore, the fact that the duo did not receive an explicit or implicit authorization from their client to conduct the press conference also works against them.
Personal and professional ramifications
This case is likely to impose some ramifications on the defense attorneys in the days to follow because clients and the legal fraternity will look at them with disapproval. This event also brings to the fore the ability of the defense counsel to abide by the provisions of the professional code of conduct, which expressly bars them from revealing their clients’ information to third parties. The two lawyers in this case face legal liability and may be culpable for the expenses incurred by Mr. Zimmerman and the state in cleaning up the mess they have created. Evidently, the defense attorneys are responsible for exposing their client’s case to prejudice a move that will see them lose face and reputation in the society. Such an event will translate to fewer clients for the two attorneys and the firm that they represent (Blake, 1998). The action by the two defense attorneys further tarnishes the image of the Florida Legal system. The nature of their offense may expose them to civil litigation and the two may also be suspended from active practice for a varied duration of time.
The second case that follows will exemplify a case in which a prosecutor breached professional code of conduct governing the affairs of attorneys. According to an article posted on the Ojournal website, an Arizona Ethics panel found Maricopa’s top prosecutor guilty of gross professional misconduct and disbarred him (Oliveira, 2012). In this case the Arizona ethics committee faulted Mr. Andrew Thomas for maliciously pressing charges on county officials and a Supreme Court judge. The investigations into the cases filled by the then prosecutor for Maricopa County revealed that the prosecutor in deed filled these cases to gain political mileage.
The tribunal found out that Mr. Thomas was in the habit of filing cases against any official that had crossed his ambitions (Ortego & Maleson, 2008). The ex-prosecutor had alleged that the three parties he had accused were culpable of corruption. His allegation failed the test because it was discovered that he contravened the provisions of the professional code of conduct for attorneys and meddled in affairs that he clearly had vested interest in. The ramification for his action, based on the severity of his misconduct, was disbarment. Following his gross misconduct, the prosecutor’s license for legal practice was revoked (Nicolson, 2005).
Blake, M. A. A. A. (1998). some ethical issues in prosecuting and defending criminal cases. Crim LR, 16-34.
Frankel, A. (2012, 11 4). Zimmerman ex-lawyers may have violated ethics rules: law profs. Retrieved 1 28, 2013, from Thomson Reuters News and Insight: http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/ViewNews.aspx?id=44570&terms=%40ReutersTopicCodes+CONTAINS+%27ANV%27
Nicolson, D. (2005). Making lawyers moral: Ethical codes and moral character. Legal Studies, 25, 601-626.
Oliveira, R. (2012, 4 10). Ariz. ethics panel disbars ex-Maricopa prosecutor. Retrieved 1 28, 2013, from Ojournal: http://ojornal.com/portuguese-brazilian-news/2012/04/ariz-ethics-panel-disbars-ex-maricopa-prosecutor/#axzz2JJkGFjN4
Ortego, J. J., & Maleson, L. (2008). Incivility: An insult to the professional and the profession. The Brief, 37(3).
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