Continuing Duties to Former Clients

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Opinion 2013-4 centers around whether public defenders who represent former clients in criminal cases that end in conviction may present evidence of that conviction to impeach the former client in a current case, expanding on a statement from a previous opinion which addressed the imputation of conflicts in a public defender’s office. In addition to Rule 1.9, Opinion 2013-4 also considers Rules 1.4, 1.6, and 1.7 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

Quoting the Board of Commissioners’ opinion, the Court’s news service last Friday related  that “impeachment of a former client violates Prof.Cond.R. 1.9(c) because the public defender would be using information relating to the prior representation to attack the credibility of the former client, which would disadvantage that former client. However, the public defender may proceed with the current representation if the former client’s criminal conviction is generally known, the use of former-client information is permitted or required by the Rules of Professional Conduct, or the former client provides informed consent;” expanding on the Commission’s previous statement five years ago in Opinion 2008-4,  addressing the imputation of conflicts in a public defender’s office where it stated that “if a former client in an unrelated matter is a witness in a defendant’s criminal case, an assistant county public defender may represent the criminal defendant, but may not use or reveal information of the former client that is protected from disclosure under Prof.Cond.R. 1.9(c).”