CONFLICT OF INTERESTSCONFIDENCES OF CLIENTDIVORCE CASES An attorney who represented the wife in a prior divorce action, which was dismissed upon reconciliation, cannot ethically represent her husband in a subsequent divorce suit filed against her by such husband.
Canons 6, 34.
An attorney was employed by a wife and instituted suit in her behalf for a divorce, division of property and possibly other relief. The wife says that she discussed and disclosed all matters known to her as grounds for divorce, as well as all matters concerning the financial condition and community property of the parties. Prior to bringing the matter to trial, the parties reconciled and the cause was dismissed at the wife's instructions.
Sometime later, the wife states that she was compelled to permanently abandon her husband because he returned to his old ways and before she instituted the suit, the husband employed her former attorney, who instituted suit on his behalf. An attempt was made to agree on the property, before waiver or answer was filed, but when negotiations broke down another attorney was employed by the wife, who filed a general denial, cross-action and prayer for other relief. At the wife's request, the first attorney has been asked to withdraw as attorney for her husband, but has refused.
Has the first attorney violated Rule 34, or any other rule, in the opinion of the committee? Should he withdraw? Should he withdraw even if he states that he has not and will not reveal to the husband any confidences between himself and his former client, the wife?
Canon 6 prohibits representation of conflicting interests except by express consent of all concerned given after full disclosure of the facts. Under Canon 34, an attorney's duty to preserve his client's confidence outlasts his employment, and he should not accept employment which involves the disclosure or use of these confidences to the disadvantage of the client, without the client's knowledge and consent even though there are other available sources of such information. The facts stated in the question would constitute a violation of both Canons, and the attorney should withdraw even though he states that he will not reveal the wife's confidences to the husband. (9-0.)