Following the election this past November, there has been a sort of uproar in this otherwise sleepy community regarding an attorney who was elected to the local board equivalent of city council (from what I can tell). I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my outrage at these seemingly ridiculous allegations. Unfortunately, due to a lack of space in the teeny tiny (albeit free) paper that our community delivers to residents, I was told I had to edit it down. Never have I been more thankful for free web publishing.
Nonetheless, because I liked the full version better anyway and I believe this is a recurring issue we as attorneys have to deal with, I am reposting my letter for your reading (and perhaps PR refreshing) pleasure. I have omitted the party names in case they do not wish for their names to be blasted over the interwebz. Enjoy.
I am writing to come to the defense of fellow attorney (name) in regards to what I believe are unfair and unfounded allegations discussed in your December 2010/January 2011 edition. As attorneys, we are bound to strict professional rules of conduct, which can be found in the California Business & Professions Code, among other sources. In fact, in order to become an attorney, we must pass not only the California Bar Examination, but also an additional professional responsibility exam, and we must further pass an investigation by the State Bar certifying that we are of good moral character.
Chief among these rules is the most famous duty of confidentiality. If (attorney)did in fact represent (current board member), which is not clear from the information presented, she is not at liberty to disclose this representation freely. Confidentiality is central to forming an informed and trustworthy attorney-client relationship.
Even assuming confidentiality is not an issue, it is not immediately clear to me, in terms of non-legal concerns why writing a letter inviting the DA to investigate potential illegal conduct would raise any potential conflict of interest issues or relationships. It seems to me that the reason why others are pointing fingers in regards to this letter is simply that they disagree with (attorney’s) politics, which, by the way, is not unethical, but rather at the heart of democratic process. Aside from necessarily meaning that she represented (current board member), (attorney) signing her name , Esq. could indicate that the alleged violations of the relevant code sections were worth investigating, as vouched for by an attorney. In other words, she had investigated this matter in a legal capacity, and was making the recommendation in that regard.
In terms of a potential conflict of interest, which is presumably what the “concerned” are up in arms about, I don’t see what the conflict is. If it is that (attorney) represented (current board member) in some capacity, then that is in effect saying that attorneys, as a professional class, are barred from serving on any boards where they represented any present members in any capacity, which is quite a slippery, and in my opinion unfair, slope.
If the issue is that (attorney) is aligned politically or personally with (current board member), then I challenge those “concerned” to articulate a reasonable, neutrally applicable standard by which elections may be held, whereby anyone who has any sort of affinity or personal relationship with another person presently serving on the board, may also not run for office. It is simply absurd.
It seems abundantly clear that this is simply a matter of politics and not ethics. I write to you because it is extremely disconcerting to me when a person is accused of an ethical violation when there is literally no support for such an accusation which can potentially cause such damage.
I sincerely hope that the citizens of (community) will be able to move past any bad feelings for not having their candidate elected, and learn that in politics you win some and you lose some.
Fellow (Community) Attorney