In re Ridgely

In In re Ridgely, 48 Del. 464, 9 Terry 464, 106 A.2d 527 (Del. 1954), a man bought a seemingly new car from an auto dealership. Id. at 528. In fact, the previous owner had driven the car about 800 miles, been in an accident, and then traded it in. Id. The man was referred to an attorney who, similar to here, served as both a prosecutor and a private attorney. Id. at 529. The attorney agreed that the facts warranted criminal proceedings, but "sought to dissuade the man from immediate prosecution because he thought such a course would delay a civil settlement." Id. Later, the attorney sent the man to the Attorney General's Office to reduce his statement into writing. Id. Following this, the attorney swore out warrants but told the clerk of court not to serve them because serving the warrants would have impeded the man's ability to receive compensation. Id. When the man finally settled, the attorney asked for attorney fees. Id. at 530. The attorney's dual representation, according to the Delaware Supreme Court, was wrong because when an attorney is both a private practitioner and a prosecutor, "his private interest must yield to the public one." Id. at 531. Dual representation violates the spirit of that duty because it "necessarily tends to destroy the confidence of the public" in the administration of justice. Id. at 532. That was true even though there was no evidence that the attorney threatened the dealership with criminal prosecution or intentionally used his powers of office to obtain money. Id.