Q: What would you do if you were asked to work on a case that you found your client’s position totally repugnant to your sensibilities, such as a pedophile or wife beater? A: It Depends… • I think my response would be dependent on the type of personal relation I have to the repugnant factors and the extent that it renders me incapable of objectivity.
RPC 3-700(A)(A) In General.(1) If permission for termination of employment is required by the rules of a tribunal, a member shall not withdraw from employment in a proceeding before that tribunal without its permission.(2) A member shall not withdraw from employment until the member has taken reasonable steps to avoid reasonably foreseeable prejudice to the rights of the client, including giving due notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, complying with rule 3-700(d) and complying with applicable laws and rules.
Comments• I think the requirement to get permission before being able to withdrawal from representing a client is a way of ensuring the reasons for the parting are sufficient enough to negate the duty of loyalty and service. Attorney’s may not simply walk away from a client or case without a very good reason. This section delegates the initial steps in the termination process.• Although an attorney may have the desire to end the relationship he cannot let his emotions get in the way of his responsibilities. If he decides to proceed and the permission to withdraw is granted, he cannot then abandon the client without first taking action to keep the client on the appropriate legal track.
RPC 3-700(B)(3)(B) Mandatory Withdrawal.• A member representing a client before a tribunal shall withdraw from employment with the permission of the tribunal, if required by its rules, and a member representing a client in other matters shall withdraw from employment, if:(3) The member’s mental or physical condition renders it unreasonably difficult to carry out the employment effectively.
Comments• I think that this section may be interpreted for the purposes of our discussion as obligating withdrawal of representation if the attorney is mentally incapacitated by the character of his client. If you find your client so overwhelmingly repugnant, distaste experienced in both thought and emotion, you should be barred from representing him. Emotions can have a strong effect and manifest in a variety of ways. They absolutely may (and often do) conflict with logic. Logical thinking and processes are necessary for adequate legal representation but emotional conflict can mentally and even physical incapacitate you. An attorney is supposed to advocate for his client and take a bias stance in his favor and interest. However at the same time he must maintain a level of objectivity so as to not get clouded by personal perspective or feelings. I do think that if the powers are aware of the attorney’s incapacitating issue they have a duty to require the attorney to withdrawal regardless if his issue stems from his personal stance on his client.
RPC 3-700(C)(1d)(4)(6)(C) Permissive Withdrawal.• If rule 3-700(B) is not applicable, a member may not request permission to withdraw in matters pending before a tribunal, and may not withdraw in other matters, unless such request or such withdrawal is because:(1) The client(d) by other conduct renders it unreasonably difficult for the member to carry out the employment effectively, or(4) The member’s mental or physical condition renders it difficult for the member to carry out the employment effectively; or(6) The member believes in good faith, in a proceeding pending before a tribunal, that the tribunal will find the existence of other good cause for withdrawal.
Comments• Have you ever seen the movie Devil’s Advocate? In the beginning a girl is testifying to her teacher molesting her and while she is on the stand the defendant is getting noticeable sexually aroused listening to her recount the events. He makes inappropriate jesters that the defense attorney sees. The attorney reacted as if he found it repugnant. I considered having to represent a client who did things like that. Would his conduct be so repugnant to justify requesting permission to withdrawal? What if I witnessed the client who is accused of molestation attempt to talk to and flirt with under aged girls on several occasions? He hasn’t been convicted yet but I suspect from his actions that he is guilty. I do think that I would have a difficult time with this conduct however I do not think that it would be enough to permit withdrawal from representation.• Consider a scenario in which an attorney is employed to represent a once convicted, twice charged child molester. Add in the personal experience of the attorney being molested when he was a child and his abuser was tried and convicted. The attorney no doubt feels a strong repugnancy (possibly hatred) for child molesters and knows for a fact that his client was already convicted once for molestation. How could he efficiently defend this person? It is unreasonable to think that any person no matter their level of professionalism and objectivity would be able to maintain those levels throughout this type of situation which has such a negative and personal meaning to them. Given these circumstances it is reasonable to believe that a tribunal would permit the withdrawal in the interest of fairness to both the attorney and the client.
Maintain perspective onpersonal factors andobjectivity in representationin the interest of loyalty andservice. If you are justifiably too put off by your client to the point of becoming incapacitated and unable to efficiently do your job, I think the responsible thing to do is give the client a fair chance and don’t represent them.
Rules of Professional Conduct Chapter 3: Professional Relationship with Client Rule 3-700: Termination of Employment