Is it legal for the public defender to be related to the prosecution’s witness?

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Is it legal for the public defender to be related to the prosecution’s witness?

We’ve been told that the public defendant was the second cousin to the witness for prosecution. Is there any law about lawyers being related to the people in a case? His advise was to take the 30 years because it could be worse. Couldn’t it be argued that he’snot  really looking out for his client’s benefit, but rather, for his family member who was pressing charges?

Asked on March 25, 2011 under Criminal Law, Louisiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This would almost certainly be a conflict of interest that should result in this public defender withdrawing from the case; it might also be something which could result in an ethics charge against this attorney, and might have resulted in an opportunity to appeal if it had come out after conviction. This sort of conflict can be waived--or "okayed"--by the client, but the client is not required to do so. Below I've attached a link to the LA rules of professional conduct for attorneys; having a family member involved as a witness for the other side could, for example, interfer with the lawyer's duty of diligent representation (see rule 1.3, I believe). You can contact your state bar association for more guidance; good luck.

http://www.ladb.org/Publications/ropc.pdf


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