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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17-Fraud on the Tribunal

48-Criminal Defense Lawyers

A criminal defense lawyer who has been unable to contact her client despite efforts to do so, but who assumed that the client would not want a jury trial because juries have "imposed lengthy sentences in similar cases," violates the rule governing the parameters of her authority by indicating to the court that she wished the matter to be set as a bench trial (without informing the court or the prosecutor that she had not spoken with her client). Because there is a "common understanding by the criminal bar that a client can only waive the constitutional right to a jury trial through voluntary, intelligent consent," the criminal lawyer’s statement to the court that "she wishes to have the client's case set for bench trial" amounted to a knowing falsehood -- even though "on its face and with no context, the statement does not seem to be false or involve misrepresentation" (although there would be no falsehood in the unlikely event that the criminal lawyer was "completely ignorant of the requirement that the client must provide voluntary, intelligent consent.")

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn