Representation is inherently an aware, consensual relationship, one that is founded upon the lawyer affirmatively accepting a professional responsibility. However, such acceptance need not necessarily be articulated, in writing or speech but may, under certain circumstances, be inferred from the conduct of the parties.
Respondent attorney filed a third-party complaint against former clients. The county ethics committee found that respondent's actions constituted an improper conflict of interest. The court affirmed the decision of the ethics committee, holding that an impermissible conflict of interest existed.
Was respondent attorney ethically prohibited from filing a third party complaint against former clients because the action arose from the same cause in which he had previously represented the clients?
The court determined that respondent was prohibited from representing an opposing party in proceedings arising from the same cause as the one in which he had represented the former clients. The court found that other allegations of ethical misconduct by respondent were not proven by clear and convincing evidence. The court found that a public reprimand was sufficient discipline under the circumstances because respondent had an otherwise unblemished record and had retired from the practice of law.