1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Could a lawyer be disbarred for doing this?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ryan Elder, May 14, 2016.

    I was watching the movie ...And Justice for All (1979), and there was a scenario in the movie that I found interesting to compare mine to, and might be the same law for my story.

    In the movie, a lawyer (Al Pacino's character) defends a client for murder, gets him off, and then the client goes out and does it again. The lawyer, reading about how the new murder was done methodically, realizes it's the same methods used by his client before.

    So out of moral conscience he calls the police tells him of those similar methods of his client and the police use that as the basis of their investigation which leads to the clients arrest and charge. The lawyer is then under threat of being disbarred for 'betraying a client's trust' as the term that was used in the movie.

    In my story, the MC, who is a rogue cop who is willing to break the rules in a case, wants revenge on the gang he is investigating after he feels they have gone too far with their crimes and gotten away with them.

    So he breaks into the law firm of the lawyer who is representing one of the gang members as a client. He figures that the leader of the gang payed the lawyer, since the gang member does not have the type of budget, to pay such a high priced lawyer. If he breaks in and looks at the file of the case, he can find out who payed the lawyer, and thus find out who the leader is likely, or at least a higher up in the gang, that he could use to re-pick up the trail, after it's gone cold, since the client who was in court before, is the only known suspect in the gang.

    So the MC breaks into the law firm, with a key card. The gang finds out that he has broken in though and go there to stop him from finding out more about the gang in that file. I haven't figured out how the gang finds this out yet, but they will somehow.

    So they go there to stop him and probably attempt to kill him from finding out too much. They wait in the parking structure of the building, waiting for him to come out. Unknown to the gang, another rogue cop happens to be tailing the one member who is known to police, for other reasons, that are not official assignment and he has not told the police that he is following the one gang member, who is now with the rest of the gang.

    So the police do not know who this cop is following and why. The rest of the gang members are unknown and have not been printed in the system before.

    The gang members are all wearing gloves, and only the one's DNA is on file. So as the cop is tailing them, he hears gunshots since the gang has the MC pinned down, and the MC is trapped and cannot leave, but he has his own gun as well, to return fire.

    The other cop tailing them runs in to stop the gang, since someone is pinned down and goes to assist, but is killed in the crossfire. The gang gets away, and the MC does as well, not wanting the police to know he broke into the law firm, which lead to the events that got the other cop killed, he has to now figure out what to do.

    However, let's say the gang leader comes to the lawyer at the same law firm again, who represents him, and tells him that his gang killed the cop who's body is in the parking structure of the building. And the reason why they killed the cop, is because they were trying to kill a different rogue cop, who broke into the building to find out too much about the gang.

    The police investigating the homicide of the cop have no idea what that cop was doing there, so they are going to be looking at the law firm for any help, since the cop was killed right outside of their building, during a break in, although I am not sure if any signs of a break in would be present.

    Now if the gang leader goes to the lawyer and tells him that he killed the cop in their parking structure cause the cop was trying to stop them from killing the other cop, who broke in to find out too much, would the firm be legally obligated to defend him and not betray his trust? Or would the firm be legally obligated to tell the police the information that the gang leader now told them?

    Where is the line drawn between betraying a client's trust, and illegally withholding information from the police? Would a law firm still defend a client after he killed a cop at their own building?
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  2. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    It depends on the lawyers moral values first and then on what kind of representation he is planing on for the best results upon his case. Not many lawyers would chose to defend such people, because their cases are extremely difficult and apart from that, they are very difficult individuals to handle (lawyers do not like to be threatened or blackmailed). When proof speaks in court, there is little that the lawyer can do in order to claim not guilty for his client. Sometimes it is for the best of his clients interest to claim guilty and the client won't understand this. That's were the going gets tough for the lawyer-client relationship in most cases and there needs to be a scapegoat. Somebody, who is willing to faultily admit to a crime he didn't commit as well the false implantation of proof in order to make his case seem probable.

    But your question was if the lawyer would be charged for knowing what he is knowing. No. He can't be charged. It is his lawful right to do whatever he can in order to represent a winning court case. If he moves of course within the frame of legal actions. Meaning, that a lawyer wouldn't be an idiot to the extend as to plant himself false proof. As long as he doesn't give a reason to his rivals to get himself caught for being active in a crime he is covered.
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I meant would the lawyer be disbarred though, not charged. Thanks.

    I have another question about my court case actually, for research if that's okay:

    In my story there is a court case where the prosecutor does not know what one of the witnesses is going to say, but would like to find out. Whenever the police attempt to talk to her, she doesn't want to talk. So the prosecutor subpoenas her to testify at a preliminary hearing to see if she will be an effective witness to go to trial with.

    The defendant however, has reasons to waive his rights to a preliminary hearing and go straight to trial.

    In case like this, where a prosecutor wants to have a hearing to see what a witness will say before going to trial, and a defendant wants to waive his rights to the hearing and skip it, who has the final say? The prosecutor or the defense?

    Thank you very much for the information. I really appreciate it.
     
  4. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    Short answer: He wouldn't be disbarred. It is veeeery difficult to get a lawyer disbarred or even a police officer or whomever. Bad reputation is another thing.

    As for your second question, I am not sure but from what I read and understood from Wiki it is mostly a thing that the defendant would normally ask for. It is for their best interest. (I 'm European and these laws differ depending on the court case. A preliminary hearing is conducted under extremely rare conditions).

    Think of it this way. It is not a recordable content or something that can be used as proof in court. It is something like practice before an action, for typical reasons. To get the representation right. But!!! -> If for whatever reasons the witness chooses to change his testimony on the last minute... well fuck. Nothing you can do about it. The prosecutor might have earned some clues but this says nothing when it comes to court. Because the only proof in these cases is the witness him or herself. So if their testimony changes the outcome takes a completely different turn. But!!! Let's say that their preliminary testimony held some proof. It's up to the attorney to hire somebody (before the official hearing) to dig in that proof so it may be presented in court. Proof is valuable. It's the fact that could earn you a winning case. Testimonies come second.

    Hope I helped and better to consult with a lawyer from your state. They can really help out. It's easy for them.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The lawyer who read the paper and called the police would certainly be disciplined, and could potentially be disbarred in California, for breaching trust.

    The law firm is not obligated to defend the gang leader, and it would be a bad idea for them to do it, but they're also not allowed to go to the police by betraying a client confidence.

    The criminals who are telling the lawyers they are guilty also aren't very bright - that's not something you want to do, or that the lawyer typically wants to know.
     
  6. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    I'll have to disagree with that. Lawyers want to know the whole truth in order to be able to defend you. One slip of facts and they might lose the whole case they might have been building for years. There is nothing they hate more than being told bullshit which leads to unexpectedly get off guard in court. (Remember that on the other side of the court stands another lawyer whose mission is to deplete you. You do not underestimate him). Apart from being humiliated they lose credibility.

    You want your lawyer to know your case and in case he doesn't agree with you and isn't willing to defend you in a way you, as a criminal see fit, you have the right to fire him and get another lawyer.
     
  7. NobodySpecial
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    NobodySpecial Active Member

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    This is from the Ohio state Bar Association. You can look through this and see if anything fits what you're looking for. Other states may handle things differently, but it's the Bar Association that would be doing the disbarring, so why not ask them?

    https://www.ohiobar.org/ForPublic/Resources/LawFactsPamphlets/Pages/LawFactsPamphlet-9.aspx
     
  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. These responses help a lot.

    As far as a preliminary hearing, not having anything on the record that could be used against witnesses later, I read that preliminary hearings are put on the record, and their have been cases where they would use the transcripts from the hearing to prove if witnesses change their testimony? Unless I was told wrong?

    For my story though, I would like the case to get dismissed right away without going to trial, otherwise the story would take too long to go to trial, and the timing of events would be drawn out illogically.

    Is there any reasons why a defendant would not skip a preliminary hearing? Or can a prosecutor still want to have a preliminary hearing for his own reasons and override the defendant's decision to skip it?

    I tried researching if a prosecutor can override a defendant's decision to skip a preliminary hearing, but haven't found any conclusive results. Does anyone know?
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I listened to a speech by a criminal defense attorney who said he didn't want to know. He's not alone. There are limitations to what evidence you can put on, how you can advocate, etc., if you know this. I suspect more attorneys would rather know than not, however.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Ryan Elder if you want the process to be over quickly, why have the prosecutor bring charges in the first place?
     
  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well in my story I wanted the villain to be let go cause of lack of evidence, otherwise if he was caught and secured a conviction, the story would be over too soon. So the prosecutor would still naturally bring charges.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If there wasn't enough evidence to even get past a motion to dismiss, why would the prosecution bring charges? Prosecutors would probably be embarrassed to lose on a motion to dismiss. That's a hard motion to win as a criminal defense attorney. If the case is so bad that they can't get past a motion to dismiss, the prosecutor would probably recognize that fact right off the bat, don't you think?
     
  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well, in my story, in order for the prosecutor to ascertain whether or not he has enough evidence, there is one witness he needs the testimony of, but that witness will not talk or does not want to get involved, so he has to subpoena her to find out what she will say.

    Would he subpoena her for a preliminary hearing to find out what she will say prior to trial?

    I was told by a lawyer that prosecutor's hate preliminary hearings and feel they are a waste of time. But in order for the prosecutor to ascertain if he has enough to go to trial, how is he going to find out what she will say without putting her on the stand? Would he do it at trial, not knowing what she is going to say, or would he do it at a preliminary hearing or deposition beforehand?
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2016
  14. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    In your first case your lawyer would not be expected to tell the police anything about his client's confession of murder. It's legally privileged information - and he would potentially be disciplined if he told someone what his client told him.

    But this ties in to your later questions. First, he would be a fool to take the gang member on as a client who had admitted to him that he'd killed a cop. Apart from the fact that he may find himself also culpable in some way and thus conflicted, there is an oft quoted rule in law that lawyers don't want to know. Lawyers cannot allow their clients to lie in court. That means if the gang member goes on the stand and says he didn't do it, the lawyer would have to walk away from the case immediately as otherwise he would be knowingly allowing a client to lie. If he didn't know because his client had not confessed to him, he could allow him to say whatever he liked.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks for the advice. But I didn't say that the lawyer tell his client to lie, did I? I thought the client would remain silent.
     

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