Yes, a prosecutor can date a defense attorney.
However, if they intend to be in a relationship, there’s a few things they should do to avoid problems.
Let us explain.
Can A Prosecutor Date A Defense Attorney? (EXPLAINED)
The first and primary thing two attorneys need to do who want to date each other is to protect their client(s).
Second to that, the attorneys need to protect their licenses and livelihoods.
How you go about the depends on how far the relationship has progressed.
Disclosing The Existence Of The Relationship To Your Bosses
One of the first things the two attorneys can do if they are in a relationship and they are at risk at being on the opposite sides of a case is to disclose the existence of the relationship.
While ethics rules in the states and the American Bar Association differ, it is clear that when lawyers on opposing sides are closely related in some way, there’s a chance that the relationship will interfere with their duties.
There’s just nothing that says exactly how “closely related” the parties need to be.
And if the relationship will interfere with the duties, they’ll need to take action to protect themselves and the client.
In absence of a clear line, the best course of action (in all things in legal practice) is to get ahead of the problem.
This is why we’d probably just go ahead and comply with the rules for disclosure.
If there’s no actual clients or cases in conflict yet, just tell the bosses what is up.
This gives the law firm and the prosecutor’s office a chance to look ahead and avoid potential conflicts in the future.
This could mean that the defense attorney’s office finds out which prosecutor is handling a case before assigning the case to an associate.
Maybe that particular defense attorney doesn’t handle criminal cases in the court where their partner works.
This could mean that the prosecutor’s office re-assigns criminal cases when the defense attorney files a notice of rep on a particular case.
Either way, disclosing the relationship early makes it easy for everyone to avoid any appearance whatsoever of a conflict.
The last thing anyone wants to experience is the accusation mid-trial that you are doing something (or not doing something) because your romantic interest is on the other side of the case from you.
Depending upon how the firm and the office handles the relationship, it may not be necessary to disclose to any clients that you are dating someone on the dark side.
After all, if you never cross swords because the offices keep you out of each other’s way, then its a non-issue.
But if you are working a case where the potential exists for your partner to appear in the case unexpectedly, it is better to tell the client about it in case it comes up.
This way you can control the narrative.
And the client will understand the actions that you take.
If a sufficiently close relationship exists, and it is possible that the relationship could be relevant in the case, the ethical rules might even require that the attorneys disclose the existence of the relationship before the client retains the attorney.
This would give the client a chance to hire another lawyer, or to provide informed consent for your file and to satisfy the rules.
Dating An Attorney On The Other Side Of An Active Case
Please don’t do this.
Life is not a rom-com.
If you are interested in the opposing lawyer in your case, and you want to date them, you can do one of a few things:
- Wait until your case is over.
- Fire your client.
- Have another lawyer in your firm take over your case.
- Ask your partner to fire her client.
- Ask your partner to have someone else in her firm take over her case.
It is just way too messy to be in the middle of the case and to be trying to navigate a fledgling relationship.
Even if things are held completely separate and professional during work time, just the speculation that the attorneys may have less than professional during the pendency of the case is something everyone should want to avoid.
If you can’t stop yourself, get a copy of the ethical rules for your state, and get ready to tell your client and your office.
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