These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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LEO NumTopicsSummary

4-Witness-Advocate Rule

24-Representation of or Adversity to Witnesses

25-Dealing with Unrepresented People

48-Criminal Defense Lawyers

51-Government Attorneys

77-Communicating with an Individual Adversary

A public defender was appointed to represent a criminal defendant, but the public defender's office was currently representing or formerly represented a number of witnesses. The Bar held that "continued representation of a new client is improper when it becomes necessary to challenge the credibility of a former client, even in an unrelated matter, if it requires the use of the former client's confidential information in order to zealously represent the current client." Because the public defender was apparently representing one of the current adverse witnesses, the continued representation of the defendant required the consent of the defendant and the witness. The Commonwealth's Attorney had discussed the case with the witnesses. The Bar held that the Commonwealth's Attorney may not approach a present client of defense counsel without notifying defense counsel, and may not provide any legal advice (such as recommending signing a waiver) to any unrepresented former client.The public defender may continue to represent the defendant even if it became necessary to call one of the same office's former lawyers as a witness because DR 5-102(A) applies only when the lawyer-witness is presently associated with the firm.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn