Legal Ethics

May a Lawyer Represent a Man Accused of Killing a Client? Two Cases Raise the Issue

May a lawyer represent a man accused of killing the lawyer’s client? Recent news stories detail ethics questions surrounding the arrangement in two separate prosecutions.

One case involves Minnesota criminal defense lawyer Justin Seurer, who is representing a man accused of killing his client near a bar, reported last week. The second case involves court-appointed lawyer Keith Kamenish of Louisville, Ky., who represents Dion Neal, one of two men accused of killing Kamenish’s client in 2005 in an effort to protect drug turf, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

The issue is the conflict between the duty to protect confidences of the original client and the duty to zealously defend the new client.

Kamenish says he represented the earlier client only briefly and didn’t learn any confidential information helpful to the defense of his new client. Kamenish tells the Courier-Journal he was a stand-in for another lawyer representing the earlier client, and never developed an attorney-client relationship with the defendant.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has filed a motion seeking to get Kamenish kicked off the case, the Courier-Journal says. Prosecutors fear that if Neal is convicted, he would cite Kamenish’s past representation of the alleged murder victim in an ineffective assistance challenge.

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