Lawyer's Conflict of Interest With Clients Cases Examples

Wood v. Georgia (1981) established the rule that "when a trial court knows or should know that defense counsel has a possible conflict of interest with his or her client, it must inquire into the matter . . . and act in response to what its inquiry discovers. . . ." (People v. Jones (1991) 53 Cal. 3d 1115, 1136, 282 Cal. Rptr. 465, 811 P.2d 757; See also Garcia v. Bunnell (9th Cir. 1994), 33 F.3d at pp. 1199-1200 information about counsel's new job with district attorney was not actual conflict requiring automatic reversal, but did trigger the court's duty to make further inquiries.) The right to effective counsel under the federal and state constitutions includes the "right to representation that is free from conflicts." (People v. Bonin (1989) 47 Cal. 3d 808, 834, 254 Cal. Rptr. 298, 765 P.2d 460; U.S. Const., 6th Amend.; Cal. Const., art. I, 15.) Such conflicts "'embrace all situations in which an attorney's loyalty to, or efforts on behalf of, a client are threatened by his or her . . . own interests.'" (People v. Clark (1993) 5 Cal. 4th 950, 994, 857 P.2d 1099.) Under the federal constitution, "a defendant who raised no objection at trial must demonstrate that an actual conflict of interest adversely affected his lawyer's performance." (Cuyler v. Sullivan (1980) 446 U.S. 335, 348 64 L. Ed. 2d 333, 346-347, 100 S. Ct. 1708.) Absent additional facts, an attorney does not create an actual conflict of interest by seeking or accepting employment with a prosecutorial agency while representing a criminal defendant. "Any conflict between an attorney's personal interest in obtaining employment and his or her client's interest in loyal and effective representation is too attenuated to impute a violation of professional ethics in each such case." (People v. Clark, supra, 5 Cal. 4th at p. 997 defense attorney ran for district attorney during pretrial phase of capital trial--no actual conflict); See also People v. Marshall (1987) 196 Cal. App. 3d 1253, 1257, 242 Cal. Rptr. 319 defense counsel accepted employment with district attorney's office before trial began; Garcia v. Bunnell (9th Cir. 1994) 33 F.3d 1193, 1198 defense counsel accepted job with district attorney's office, to commence when trial ended.