A Washington appellate court recently disqualified a county prosecutor’s entire office from participating in the re-trial of a murder case.  The chief prosecutor had previously represented the defendant while in private practice.  The case shines a light on government lawyers and imputed conflicts of interest.

Election win spells DQ

The county prosecuting attorney, Garth Dano,

When a conflict of interest crops up during a case, Ethics 101 tells us that the “taint” of that conflict can spread, and potentially knock out all the lawyers of the affected firm. Model Rule 1.10, “Imputation of Conflicts” explains the rule. But how far does that disqualification go? A New York appeals court examined this question in December, and reversed a DQ order in a personal injury suit.
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It’s common for law students to clerk for a couple different firms during their law-school years. When a student law clerk you hire has worked for a firm representing a party adverse to your client, what happens? Is the student disqualified from working on your matter? Is your whole firm disqualified? Can you screen the clerk and solve the problem? Two recent ethics opinions out of Texas and Ohio clarify the rules.
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