Legal Ethics

Guyana Press Chat Breaks 'Local' Rule

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A lawyer who spoke to reporters in Guyana about a New York case he was handling broke a local rule barring lawyers from making comments that could interfere with a trial, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry, of the Eastern District of New York, found that Robert M. Simels “jeopardized the safety” of individuals when he disclosed their names while speaking to the press in Georgetown, Guyana. The individuals were identified as potential witnesses in a case against an accused drug trafficker, the New York Law Journal reports.

In ruling that Simels violated Local Criminal Rule 23.1 (PDF), Irizarry noted in United States. v. Khan, 06-CR-255 (PDF posted by the New York Law Journal) that “local” isn’t literal. She wrote that “We live in a global community” where people from Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere have an interest in what happens in neighboring countries. “It is therefore not a stretch…to believe that remarks made by Simels in Guyana may well reach and influence our richly diverse jury pool in this district.”

Simels told the publication that he disputes the judge’s ruling and that the individuals he named were already known by the Guyana press. Nevertheless, Simels says he will follow Irizarry’s order to refrain from discussing the case and to review his Web site to be sure he isn’t running afoul of professional conduct rules.

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