This case presents for our consideration a report of the Professional Responsibility Tribunal [PRT] which finds that the respondent-lawyer, who had accepted representation of an adult defendant charged with the
Respondent seeks to shield his joint representation of all these persons from discipline by drawing our attention to undisputed proof in the record that he had made a full disclosure to the mother of ". . . a potential conflict of interest . . . and further advised the [C]ourt that . . . [the mother] had consented to his representing her and her two children despite the fact that he [also] represented the [criminal] defendant in the pending case."
The sole question for decision is whether, when measured by the provisions of DR 5-105(A) and (C) of the Professional Responsibility Code [Code],
As exemplified in the text of its EC 5-15,
The present case unfolds such actual and apparent conflict ex lege among the jointly represented individuals that the potential for improper conduct or motivation, despite disclosure and waiver, may give rise to a charge of professional misconduct. Once a legal practitioner undertakes to represent a criminal defendant, the alleged victim of the offense, as well as other government witnesses in the case, all become "enemy territory" and "off limits"
Whenever this court is called upon to function in its constitutional capacity as the state's only disciplinary tribunal for licensed legal practitioners, its determinations are made de novo. No deferential standards apply to a Professional Responsibility Tribunal's adjudication of any fact responsive to an issue formed in a disciplinary case.
Upon a de novo review of all the pertinent facts in the record, we find that public reprimand constitutes a proper sanction for respondent's breach of discipline
All the Justices concur.
"DR 5-105. Refusing to Accept or Continue Employment if the Interests of Another Client May Impair the Independent Professional Judgment of the Lawyer
(A) A lawyer shall decline proffered employment if the exercise of his independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by the acceptance of the proffered employment, except to the extent permitted under DR 5-105(C).
(C) In the situations covered by DR 5-105(A) and (B), a lawyer may represent multiple clients if it is obvious that he can adequately represent the interest of each and if each consents to the representation after full disclosure of the possible effect of such representation on the exercise of his independent professional judgment on behalf of each."
"If a lawyer is requested to undertake or to continue representation of multiple clients having potentially differing interests, he must weigh carefully the possibility that his judgment may be impaired or his loyalty divided if he accepts or continues the employment. He should resolve all doubts against the propriety of the representation. A lawyer should never represent in litigation multiple clients with differing interests;
For cases where actual conflict was found to exist and was held not to be subject to waiver, see In re Gopman, 531 F.2d 262, 268 [5th Cir. 1976]; In re Grand Jury Investigation, 436 F.Supp. 818 [W.D.Pa.1977]; United States v. Garafola, 428 F.Supp. 620 [D.N.J.1977]; In re Grand Jury, supra note 6 and Matter of Grand Jury Proceedings, 428 F.Supp. 273 [U.S.D.C.E.D. Mich.1976]. See also, Re A. AND B., Attorneys-at-Law, 44 N.J. 331, 209 A.2d 101, 17 A.L.R.3d 827 .