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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25-Dealing with Unrepresented People

27-Litigation Tactics (Including Misrepresentations, Tape Recordings)

48-Criminal Defense Lawyers

A criminal defense lawyer representing a client charged with felony unauthorized use of a vehicle did not act improperly in asking the defendant's mother (who was the victim of the crime) to speak to him before speaking to the Commonwealth Attorney, because "that statement alone merely requested preferential treatment" and "did not request that she not speak to the Commonwealth Attorney at all." The criminal defense lawyer's statement to the mother that she "did not have to speak to the Commonwealth Attorney" was not an unethical request not to provide information, but amounted to improper advice to an unrepresented party (although the interests of the defendant's mother were not clear, because she was both the defendant's mother and the victim of the crime). The criminal defense lawyer's statement to his client's father that the father did not have to appear in court and that the father's testimony was "essential to the Commonwealth's case" were not unethical requests to withhold information, but amounted to improper advice to an unrepresented party. The Bar explained that the defense lawyer might have avoided these prohibitions if he had confirmed that the parents' interests were not in conflict with his client's interests.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn