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Home / News / Criminal Law : Attorney Withdrawal – Conflict Of Interest –  Appearance Of Impropriety

Criminal Law : Attorney Withdrawal – Conflict Of Interest –  Appearance Of Impropriety

Where defendant’s trial counsel sought to withdraw after he discovered that his direct supervisor represented a confidential informant, who was a witness for the state against the defendant, in an unrelated criminal case in another county, Missouri’s ethical rules did not prohibit the concurrent representation, but the judgment is reversed and remanded because the denial of the motion to withdraw was an abuse of discretion since the defendant did not waive any conflict and there was an appearance of impropriety due to the serious potential for conflict of interest.

 

 

Dissenting opinion by Quigless, J.: “Although I agree that the trial court has an obligation to enforce ethical rules and uphold society’s perception of the criminal justice system, see State v. Lemasters, 456 S.W.3d 416, 421 (Mo. banc 2015), here, as set forth supra, the evidence established facts that precluded an appearance of impropriety that otherwise might have cast doubt on the fairness of Defendant’s trial. See id. at 424. Notably, there was no assertion by Mr. Chase that either clients’ interests were directly adverse to the other in the same litigation or other proceeding. There also was no evidence that something was done by counsel or foregone by counsel and lost to Defendant, which was detrimental to the interests of Defendant and advantageous to Gilliland. See Johnson, 549 S.W.2d at 350. Simply, there was no evidence of any collaboration between Mr. Chase and Mr. Williams during the period of simultaneous representation that compromised the fairness of Defendant’s trial or his right to conflict-free counsel. In the absence of a real, rather than perceived, conflict of interest, the trial court does not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to withdraw.”

Judgment is reversed and remanded.

State v. McEntire (MLW No. 71451/Case No. ED105371 – 14 pages) (Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, Gaertner Jr., J.) Appealed from circuit court, St. Francois County, Inman, J. (Casey A. Taylor for appellant) (Joshua D. Hawley and Daniel N. McPherson for respondent).

Read the full text of this opinion. (PDF)