Feb. 15, 2012 – Ethical dilemmas affect every lawyer’s practice. This series of questions and answers appears each month in InsideTrack. The answers, offered by State Bar’s ethics counsel org tpierce wisbar Timothy Pierce, are intended to provide guidance only and are not legal authority. Each situation will depend on the facts and circumstances involved.
I represent a man charged with sexual assault of a child and he has steadfastly maintained his innocence. However, as trial approaches, he has become more depressed and agitated. I was just on the phone with him, and he became angry with me and said, “You haven’t done anything for me – in fact you’re on their side! If I’m going down on this you’re going down, too!” With that, he hung up the phone. What do I do?
If the lawyer reasonably believes the threat is credible, the lawyer should take necessary steps to protect him or herself, which may include disclosure of the threat to others.
References: SCR 20:1.6(b) and (c); NACDL Formal Ethics Opinion 04-02.
For guidance and help in resolving questions regarding Wisconsin’s Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys, visit the Ethics webpage on WisBar.