Lawyer reprimanded for unknowingly representing co-defendants in separate cases

The Indiana Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded a Terre Haute attorney who failed to realize he had agreed to separately represent two co-defendants, leading to his representation of both defendants in a matter in which one defendant wanted to testify against the other.

According to a Thursday order, Matthew V. Daley was appointed as a public defender for J.B., who committed a burglary and other crimes with K.W. Daley was informed by J.B. that a co-defendant was involved in the crime and that J.B. wanted to serve as a witness for the prosecution. However, Daley did not read the probable cause affidavit in J.B.’s case – which identified K.W. as the co-defendant – and did not otherwise seek to identify J.B.’s co-defendant.

When K.W. was arrested two months later, Daley agreed to privately represent K.W. and accepted a partial retainer of $1,450. However, Daley failed to ensure his paralegal filed an appearance and other documents on K.W.’s behalf, so the documents were not filed. Additionally, K.W. did not mention a co-defendant during his initial meeting with Daley, and the probable cause affidavit in K.W.’s case identified J.B. only by a nickname.

Following a pretrial conference in K.W.’s case, Daley was confronted with the fact he was representing both co-defendants and immediately sought to withdraw his representation of both J.B. and K.W. He also refunded the partial retainer that had been paid on K.W.’s behalf and apologized for the confusion.

In the Thursday Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline, the parties agreed Daley violated Professional Conduct rules 1.1, 1.7(a) and 5.3(b). Those rules relate to failure to provide competent representation, representing a client when the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest, and failure to make reasonable efforts to ensure the conduct of a nonlawyer employee over whom the lawyer has direct supervisory authority is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted the agreement and imposed a public reprimand against Daley. The costs of the proceedings are assessed against him.

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