Witness Tampering: A Dangerous Lawyer Liability
Two criminal defense lawyers were on trial this summer for allegedly prepping their witnesses illegally. Although the Chicago-based attorneys were acquitted of all charges, the issues of Attorney Professional Liability and ethics are being scrutinized nationwide.
U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber dismissed charges against Beau Brindley and his partner Michael Thompson as he determined that the prosecutors were unable to successfully prove any of the counts against them. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the charges included perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
While the two attorneys’ reputation is at stake, so is that of the FBI. According to Inside Counsel, they seized email records, computer drives and handwritten notes in an attempt to indict Brindley on charges that he allegedly hand wrote false statements that clients were expected to memorize for their testimony, which outraged fellow attorneys.
Rather than bringing potential concerns to a judge, prosecutor Jeffrey Urdangen denied the need for a federal court hearing to indict Brindley and his colleagues.
Lawyers are permitted to prepare a witness for his or her testimony, but it is unlawful to assist in a false testimony, according to Northwestern law professor Robert Burns. Referencing the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers, section 116, he states “It’s a delicate kind of balance. Witness preparation under these rules is essential.”
After the verdict, Brindley was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying “It validates aggressive defense on behalf of your clients and doing everything you can to try to achieve the best result, which is our ethical duty. It’s a testament to criminal defendants to know that you can fight the case, you can stand up and present your defense when you know that you’re not guilty, and if you do, justice will be served.”
The case was managed by the Milwaukee federal prosecutor’s office after the federal prosecutor’s office rescued itself from the duties.
While there is both support and backlash to the court’s decision, the scope of an attorney’s liability is increasingly evident. In addition to bringing you the latest news from the insurance industry, PL Risk provides Resources for Agents and Brokers nationwide. We’ve recently implemented Hiscox Now, which allows agents their own access to Hiscox and instant quoting. To learn more, contact our specialists today at (855) 403-5982.