Professor Laura Appleman, who teaches at Willamette University College of Law and blogs at Legal Ethics Forum, has just written a fascinating and fun piece about the Anna Nicole Smith saga. Appleman examines the relationship between Smith and her attorney-cum-paramour, Howard K. Stern, from a legal ethics perspective.
Even those of you whose recollections of legal ethics are fuzzy have probably thought there was something fishy about Stern’s conduct. Well, you thought right. Appleman offers a laundry list of legal ethics rules that Stern may have violated.
We commend the entire piece to you. But those of you who sitting for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam on November 4 will especially appreciate this excerpt:
[H]ere’s our first problem: Assuming, as we are, that our fictional lawyer is sleeping with his fictional client, that said fictional lawyer has allegedly impregnated said client, and that there are some competing paternity claims, what is the best course for the lawyer to pursue?
Is it (a) withdraw from the representation of the client and advise her to seek objective counsel; (b) withdraw from the representation and engage counsel of his own to litigate the paternity claim; (c) withdraw from the representation, engage his own counsel, and appoint a guardian pro tem for the child; or (d) all of the above, while also retaining complete confidentiality of the client’s information, including any client information that affects his personal interests?
Apparently, Stern instead chose (e) continued representation of the client, failure to retain counsel for himself or the child, and disregard for the confidentiality of the client’s information. Stern, an overachiever, decided to accomplish this last goal in most dramatic fashion by outing himself as the putative father on “Larry King Live.” And although there is no specific Rule 1.6 prohibition on “Larry King Live” appearances (not even in the Comments—trust me, I looked), I think we can safely assume that flaunting your client’s secrets on national television is verboten.
And you thought WE were snarky…
(Disclosure: We went to law school with Appleman. And yes, she was hilarious back then, too.)
Please Don’t Squeeze the Client [Law.com]