California Bar Journal
CBJ - May 2012 #05.
Loose lips sink ships for attorneys in Trayvon Martin case
The California LawyerMay 2012Loose lips sink ships for attorneys in Trayvon Martin caseBy Diane KarpmanThe death of Trayvon Martin is a terrible tragedy. A couple months ago we considered media manipulation. It is ironic that this month we have two highly questionable press conferences by lawyers in the prosecution of Mr. Zimmerman, the shooter now accused of the second'degree murder of Mr. Martin.
This case is a free-for-all or a "giving tree" in the ethics community. You can join the dialog by clicking on various legal ethics forums linked below. It's like watching the Titanic. You can't take your eyes off the horror of the ethics ship sinking. Let's consider some of the more remarkable foibles.
The withdrawal of the two star-struck Florida lawyers was in itself a teaching moment. What were they thinking? The overarching mantra for withdrawal is the avoidance of foreseeable prejudice to the interests of the clients. (Rule 3'700) Improper withdrawal frequently leads to claims of legal malpractice or complaints to the State Bar.
A lawyer cannot disclose client confidences when withdrawing from a case. In other words, do not call a press conference. The lawyer duo had a laundry list of complaints, including that Zimmerman was not reaching out to them. They claimed he was mentally unstable. Actually, not contacting these hypercritical chatterboxes might be considered an indicator of Zimmerman's mental stability. The lawyers also claimed not to know his whereabouts, suggesting he might be out of state. Gosh, you think that may have had an impact on his bail hearing and potential flight risk issues?
They were troubled because Zimmerman was not following their direction. Listen, and this is fundamental, clients do not have to follow our sage advice. Some have speculated that the reason clients need lawyers is precisely because they don't follow advice. In other words, if they followed our advice, we would be unemployed.
The Florida duo then stated the information was not "attorney'client privileged." Of course not! Privilege only occurs when someone is attempting to compel the disclosure of information in a tribunal. It is a mere particle of the vast duty of confidentiality all lawyers owe to their clients...