Information--not just communications--that you, as a lawyer, obtain representingyour client is CONFIDENTIAL. That privilege belongs to the client, and not to the lawyer. In the Zimmerman "case" (ont an official "case" at all), Zimmerman's lawyers, went on TELEVISION and discussed everytithing from their clients mental state, to the time and manner of their attempted communicatoins (and lack of communication) with their client. Anderson Coope did this disgraceful interview (disgraceful from the point of view of the lawyers). To Cooper's credti, though (the oNLY time I have ever said his), and to the credit of CNN's legal experts (also the ony time I have said this), CNN's experts IMMEDIATELY described the condcut of Zimmerman's former lawyers as like a "Saturday Night Live" skit, and totally unethical and indefensible. These experts were the respective attorneys who represented Scott Peterson and Casey Anthony. They got this one right. Even their OUTRAGE was right. And even the "prosecutor" on the show (as part of this equally indefensible media view of law as a matter of COMPETING OPINIONS) agreed with the two "criminal defense" lawyer.
Yes, I mam an expert in this area as well. Sure, there are more qualified experts, but I actgually know quite a bit about it. As a lawyer for 30 years, in Texas (which requires substantial continuing education on ETHICS), I know what I am talkng about here. And the attorneys on Anderson Cooper actually got i right, and Cooper LET them--even helped them-get it right.
What is a lawyer SUPPOSED to do if he is not getting cooperation from his client, or has some other reason to resign representation? If there is a court proceeding pending, where you have entered an appearnace, a lawyer is supposed to ask PERMISSION of the court to withdraw. Obviosly, you may be required to explain your reasons to the judge. But, if those reasons involve the attorney-client privilege, or possible viiolation of that privilege, yu need to talk PRIVATELY to the judge. What you don't do is hold a PRESS CONFERENCE, or talk about your clien'ts mental state IN PUBLIC. That is simply an egregious vioilation of legal etlhics. Take a truly serious situation (which never comes up, because attorneys make sure it does not). Say a client TELLS you that he is gong to go on the stand and LIE. As an attorney, you are not permitted to allow what you know is a lie to be perpetrated on the court. But do you stand up in court and YELL that your clieent is lying, and that you have to withdraw? Not on your life. What you HAVE to do is talk PRIVATELY to the judge and say that you cannot ETHICALLY continue to represent your client. It is not even safe for you to tell the JDUGE the DETAILS of why this is so. What you need to do is simply get across that you CaNNOT continue representation, and tell the judge that the reason involves the attorney-client privilege. Obviusly, this can get a little tricky, but you have an OBLIGATION not to reveal what you have learned from yur client in your representation. Your obligation is to reveal as LITTLE information as possible, as PRIVATELY as possible.
The Zimmerman lawyers idd not face any problem. They had not appeared as a lawyer for Zimmerman in any current LEGAL PROCEEDING. There is NO charge pending. thre is no court case pending. As the CNN legal experts said, this situation is common and EASY. If you don't want to continue to represent you r client, all you have to do is QUIETLY RESIGN. You can "xplain" to your client. But what you do NOT do is EXPLAIN PUBLICTY. You just notify any attorneys (here the state attorney) with whom you have been dealing that you are no longer representing your client, and are no longer authorized to talk or act for him. That is ALL you do When the media wantsto know WHY (in a high profile caase), yu simply say that is a matter of the attorney-client privilege, and has nothing to do with the merits of the matter upon which you were reppresenting your client. NO discussion of failing to return phone calls. NO discussoin of "mental state". NOTHING. You just quietly resign, TO YOUR CLIENT, and let anyone who tires to talk to you as a person representng your former client know that you are no longer in the capacity of an attorney representing that person. No. You don't call a PRESS CONFERENCE. You don't even CAlL THE MEDIA and let them knwo. You should let an OPPOSING ATTORNEY know, but other people should ony be informed that you are no lnger the attorney if THEY approach YOU in that capacity. NO discussion. This actually happens all of the time, althohgh not always in a case where the media is interested. If you can't find our client, to talk to him or deiver the message that ou have resigned, then you simpy try to get the messsage to him by means of family, friends, or whomever yo can get the information on how to contact our clietent to give him a message (your resignation).
Believe it or not, CNN-and their legalexperts--got ALL of this RIGHT. They even got right that this is one of the most egregius exmaples of attorney misconduct (as to the attorney-client privilege) that anyone has ever seen.
Look at poor George Zimmerman. Not only is he being railroaded by a LYYNCH MOB that spans te entire nation, and entire media, but he is a victim of UNETHICAL conduct by his attorneys.
Readers of this blog, over the years (to the extgent they exist) know that I have a PROBLEM with the mway the media gets "experts" to "cover" criminal cases. I believe that i is, or should be, UNETHICAL for an attorney to go on televison and talk about GUILT OR INNOCENCE of a criminal defendant, or potential criminal defendant. Yet, I now seeit done all of the time. Trials are not elections, where you should have ADVOCATES for both sides appealing to the PUBLIC for a pubic "verdict" on guilt or innocence. I feel the same way about PSYCHIATRISTS and PSYCHOLOGISTS. They have no business gong on television, based on secnod or thrid hand informatin, or seeing a person ON TELEVISION, a and giving psychological "opnons. To me, that is unethical, or at least should be unethical. This blog has, from the beginning, called media people EVIL for going on televsions and conducting a sort of pubic opinon "trial" of guilt and innocence, wihtout any standards of evidence or anything else. Idon't think lawyers should participate in such exercises in EVIL.
Anderson Cooper tonight--at lest the part after that disgraceful interview--shows how lawyers on televiosn SHOULD work. They should tell yhou HOW the legal system works. They should tell you that his i unethical conduct on the part of the attorneys for Geoorge Zimmerman. They are EXPERTS on that, and their "opinon" is really the equivalent of a FACT. Their "opinion" ofn gilt and innocence is WROTHLESS. In fact, did you know that a lawyer is NOT SUPPOSED TO go into court and say that he THINKS his client is innocent? That is the lawyer attempting to TESTIFY, and the lawyer is NOT COOPETENT (legally( to do that. The "opinin" of a lwayer on tuilt and innocence--escept on purely legal grounds--is NOT EVIDENCE. It is IRRELEVANT. Am I saying no lawyer ever gets away with it? Nope. I am just saying it is IMPROPER, just as it is IMPROPER for a lawyer to go on tV and talk about tuilt and innnocence. Is evidence admissible? Fine. Is there enough evidence to even cfreate a fact issue? Wel, that might be appropriate. Is there likely enough evidence to CHARGE George Zimmerman. Again, that MIGHT be appropriate, EXCEPT that the lawyers don't HAVE all of the evidence. Thus, it is really INAPPROPRIATE specualatin.
Again, lawyers should be experts on the PROCESS, and not on the merits of individual criminal cases. And don't believe anyone who tells you taht that is all lawyer do on these TV panels. I have SEEN them It is usually eVIL stuff, and not appropriate. Tnight, however, iit ws totally appropriate. The PERFORMANCE--especially with regard to recognized ethical standards, is what lawyers on TV SHOULD be talkng aoubt. They shuld INFORM the public about the legal slystem, and how it is SUPPOSED to work, rather than regard themselves (as most seem to do) as ADVOCATES for either the prosecutin or criminal defense. Lawyers representing clients are supposed to be advocates. Lawyers on TV lshould NOAT be "advocates", because the function of TV is NOT to conduct a "trial" on TV (with adovcates on "both sides"). The problem is that modern "journalism" believes exactly the opposite: that they are all about AGENDA and ADVOCACY, rather than providing actual information.
So. For once,k I have to commend CNN . Although ho knows what they did the rest of the night. I know they did not do that well earier in the day, as the media HPED this public resignation of Zimmerman's attorneys.
P.S . No proofreading or spell checking (bad eyesight). Oh. Zimmerman will surely be better off with other attorneys, if he is actually charged. . The obvius problem is that these unethical attorneys have made it more likely taht Zimmerman iwll be charged SOONER. Not a great day for lawyers, except those two on CNN (babout whom, I have to say, I had not previously had a high opinino). Poor George Zimmerman. Hounded to the point of ridiculous by what has to seem like the whle nation (if he pays any attentin to the medai, which he should not). Nw his lawyers have betrayed him. Andd, IF he is charged he faces the same stuff for MONTAHS or YEARS. Any eventual verdict becomes irrelevant. Zimmerman's life really has been virtually destoryed., unless somehow he is totally vindicated (and perhaps even then). Good luck, George. Yu will need it. A you know, if you read this blog, I have predicted--with my almsot perfect accuracy rating--that you wIILL be charged, and head into the NEXT circus phase. Silver lining: Think of how many other, potential HIGH PROFILE cases aht are ESCAPING NOATICE. Oh, you are in TROUBLE if you commit some sort of act taht might have RACIAL implicatins, because that will be tied into the Zimmerman/Martin case (IF anhone "discovers" it) Otherwise, the Zimmerman case is likely to OVERWHELM almost every onther criminal case out there. Nothing better could haappen to the rEST of ou legal system.