Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Case of the Week, 5.18.09

New lawyers, take note: while your supervisors have the responsibility to properly supervise your work, your ethics decisions are still your own--left for you to make!

In one Kansas case, a staff attorney received a five-day suspension for declining to accept representation in a case, even after she explained to her supervisor that she had a conflict of interest which prevented her from taking the case--the subordinate, the superior claimed, refused to elaborate on her reasons for finding a conflict. When the subordinate attorney appealed her suspension, the Court of Appeals held that a subordinate attorney retains responsibility for her own ethics decisions and does not have to defer those decisions to a supervisor. McCurdy v. Kansas Department of Transportation, 898 P.2d 650 (1995).

Of course, Rule 5.2 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct also makes it clear that subordinate attorneys have ethical and professional responsibilities: read the full text of the rule here.

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