New York Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court’s Decision to Relieve Defendant’s Attorney Based on Conflict of Interest Issues

Ensuring that you have the right attorney handling your claim and representing your interests is critically important. At Tilem & Associates, our seasoned team of New York gun crime lawyers has handled countless matters involving criminal investigations and prosecutions. This means we not only feel confident in the courtroom but also understand the many different procedural and substantive aspects of your matter. As a recent New York appellate opinion demonstrates, it is essential to ensure that you have addressed all potential procedural issues as soon as possible.

The background of the case is as follows. The defendant brandished a firearm in front of a friend that was secured in his waistband and threatened to use it on another individual. He then went to a park, where he was seen near a specific individual. The police arrived, and the defendant and the individual fled in separate directions. Multiple witnesses testified to seeing defendant throw the gun, which was later located by the police. The police also found drugs, which the other individual admitted to owning. The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest. The other individual was charged with drug possession.

A public defender was assigned to the defendant’s claim. Roughly eight months later, the prosecution provided evidence showing that another public defender represented the other individual on his criminal charges stemming from this same set of facts. The attorney for the defendant stated that he intended to use the other individual as a potential witness for the defense before he learned about the potential conflict of interest. The defendant indicated that he wanted the public defender to continue representing him even though the attorney indicated that it may not be ethical for him to do so because another attorney in his office represented the other individual.

The other individual pled guilty to his charges, and the public defender’s office no longer represented him. The other individual did not waive confidentiality, however, and the office prohibited the defendant’s attorney from calling him as a witness or searching for him. The defendant’s lawyer informed the defendant that he could not continue to be his lawyer unless the defendant agreed to waive any right to call the other individual as a witness. The defendant’s lawyer also asked the court to prohibit the prosecution from calling the other individual as a witness.

During a hearing on the issue, the court rejected the defendant’s lawyer’s request to prohibit the prosecution from calling the other individual. After the defendant indicated that he did not want to waive his right to call the other individual as a witness but that he wanted to retain his attorney, the court entered an order relieving the defense attorney of his representation of the defendant. A new attorney was assigned, the matter proceeded to trial, and the defendant was convicted. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that since the defendant’s attorney was not privy to any aspects of the public defender’s representation of the other individual, an actual conflict had not arisen. The defendant appealed again.

On review, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision to relieve the defendant’s attorney, finding that a conflict of interest arose based on the public defender’s representation of the defendant and the other individual. In reaching this decision, the court relied in part on the public defender office’s determination that there was a potential for a conflict to arise if the defendant’s lawyer proceeded with representing the defendant. It also concluded that the trial court was not incorrect when it concluded that the defendant’s waiver was not sufficient to resolve the issue. Accordingly, the court reversed the Appellate Division’s findings and remanded the matter for additional proceedings.

If you are facing a criminal investigation or prosecution, it is essential that you consult a seasoned non-conflicted New York gun crime lawyer as soon as possible. At Tilem & Associates, we offer a free consultation to help you learn more about your legal rights and options and to help you protect yourself during this stressful time. To set up your free consultation, call us now at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online.

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