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August 19, 2003

An Honorable Defense Would Have Been Better Than Zeal in Virginia Case

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:39 pm

When does a zealous defense tactic become excessive?  SW Virginia Law Blog seems to have found a good example today, pointing to a story in the Coalfield Progress.   Coalfield.com, “Two women charged in interview with alleged rape victim,” by O’Donna Ramsey, 08-19-03).

 

Blawgger Steve Minor explains that obstruction of justice charges were brought “against two Wise County women for organizing a meeting between an alleged rape victim and the counsel for the defendant, who was married to one of the two women.”  The under-aged, mentally disabled victim was interviewed at the home of the accused.  The Coalfield article says the 16-year-old victim functions at the level of a 7 or 8 year-old.

 

The accused’s lawyer, Stephanie Pease, did not ask the victim’s mother for permission to interview the victim.   According to a police representative, such permission is needed to interview a minor.   The local prosecutor is apparently considering whether to press charges against Ms. Pease.

 

According to the article, “On Monday, Pease said she did nothing wrong in interviewing the alleged rape victim without getting permission from the girl’s mother. ‘I do not believe I did anything illegal or unethical,’ she said.”  The article continues (emphasis added):


Pease said she believes she did not need permission from the girl’s mother since the interview was initiated at the girl’s request.

When asked about Dotson’s comments concerning potential charges, Pease responded, “I’d like to see him try to interfere with my duty to defend my client.”  Pease said she has an ethical obligation to her client to defend him, and she believes she did nothing wrong. The attorney said she is angry Dotson would even suggest charges, or that there was impropriety on her part.


On July 7, 2003, we did a posting here about changes to the lawyer ethics rules that have taken effect in Arizona, replacing the concept of “zealous representation” with “honorable representation.”  The Coalfield article suggests that the Arizona message needs to reach that corner of Virginia.

10 Comments

  1. In Virginia the standard of representation for a client is not zealous representation. It is “reasonable diligence.” Rule 1.3.

    Comment by ken — August 20, 2003 @ 2:10 pm

  2. In Virginia the standard of representation for a client is not zealous representation. It is “reasonable diligence.” Rule 1.3.

    Comment by ken — August 20, 2003 @ 2:10 pm

  3. Thanks for the info, Ken.  Any expert evaluation of the Wise County incident?

    Comment by David Giacalone — August 20, 2003 @ 7:22 pm

  4. Thanks for the info, Ken.  Any expert evaluation of the Wise County incident?

    Comment by David Giacalone — August 20, 2003 @ 7:22 pm

  5. I posted a reply on my blawg. It gives my reaction but I’m not really happy with it. However, I suspect for me to be satisfied with my answer I would have to know a much more about the fact pattern and spend a lot more time than I have researching the law and ethical treatment of similar situations.

    Still, I hope it provides some insight.

    Comment by ken — August 24, 2003 @ 3:45 pm

  6. I posted a reply on my blawg. It gives my reaction but I’m not really happy with it. However, I suspect for me to be satisfied with my answer I would have to know a much more about the fact pattern and spend a lot more time than I have researching the law and ethical treatment of similar situations.

    Still, I hope it provides some insight.

    Comment by ken — August 24, 2003 @ 3:45 pm

  7. Thanks for the input, Ken. I just read your blog and you’ve made soome good points. I’m sure you noticed that I did NOT accuse attorney Pease of any ethical violation — like you, I don’t have enough facts. I do wonder, however, whether Virginia law as to the “competence” of a child over 14 is relevant when the child is mentally challenged (here, severely) and is known to be by defense counsel. Let’s hope the matter is illuminated further by the press, the court or the parties.

    Comment by David Giacalone — August 24, 2003 @ 7:22 pm

  8. Thanks for the input, Ken. I just read your blog and you’ve made soome good points. I’m sure you noticed that I did NOT accuse attorney Pease of any ethical violation — like you, I don’t have enough facts. I do wonder, however, whether Virginia law as to the “competence” of a child over 14 is relevant when the child is mentally challenged (here, severely) and is known to be by defense counsel. Let’s hope the matter is illuminated further by the press, the court or the parties.

    Comment by David Giacalone — August 24, 2003 @ 7:22 pm

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