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Court of Appeals Discusses Elected Prosecutor Conflicts

Division III of the Washington State Court of Appeals recently, in a split decision, drew from a 1988 death penalty case to refine the determination for when a prosecutor’s client conflict might extend to the office as a whole. State v. Nickels, ___ Wn. App. 2d___, 434 P.3d 535, 2019 WL 479494 (Feb. 7, 2019) […]

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New WSBA Advisory Opinion on Contacting Government Employees

The WSBA Committee on Professional Ethics recently released a new advisory opinion No. 201803 to address the contours of contacting government employees under Washington Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2. The rule generally prohibits communication with a person whom the contacting lawyer “knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter[.]” Under Wright v. Group […]

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New WSBA Advisory Opinion on ‘Quadripartite’ Relationships

The WSBA Committee on Professional Ethics recently released advisory opinion No. 201802 addressing “quadripartite” relationships. “Tripartite” relationships among an insurer, the insured, and defense counsel have been delineated extensively in both court decisions and advisory opinions. “Quadripartite” relationships, by contrast, are a fairly new development and remain comparatively unplumbed. The term generally describes situations where […]

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3 Questions We Frequently Answer on the Ethics Line

At the WSBA Ethics Line, we take calls all the time. Have you ever needed to hash out a sticky conflicts situation? Ever felt unsettled by your client’s behavior or unsure how to handle something confidentially? If so, you’re not alone. Here are three common questions we receive as well as a few tips we […]

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U.S. District Court Highlights Importance of ‘Non-Engagement’ Letters

A recent decision from the U.S. District Court in Seattle highlights the importance of “non-engagement” letters: a letter or other communication to a non-client involved in the background context of a representation telling the non-client that the lawyer is not representing the non-client. Smartek21, LLC v. VisiKard, Inc., 2018 WL 5024031 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 17, […]

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Demystifying the Qui Tam Process

There’s No Such Thing as an Average False Claims Case Defendants in qui tam lawsuits—in which a whistleblower accuses someone, usually a corporation, of fraud against the government—often don’t realize they’ve been targeted until months, or sometimes years, past the original filing date. This is deliberate: The federal False Claims Act (FCA) requires whistleblowers to […]

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Supreme Court Holds No Double Jeopardy for Lawyer Discipline

In a case of first impression in Washington, the Supreme Court recently held that the double jeopardy provisions of the United States and Washington Constitutions do not apply to lawyer discipline proceedings. In re Waechter, ___ Wn.2d ___, 419 P.3d 827, 2018 WL 2977072 (June 14, 2018), involved a lawyer who had allegedly converted client […]

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Confirming When Representation Begins Matters

A recent decision by Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals illustrates the importance of confirming whether or not you have taken on a client at an initial meeting. Fechner v. Volyn, ___ Wn. App. ___, 418 P.3d 120, 2018 WL 2307703 (May 22, 2018), was painted against the backdrop of a medical malpractice […]

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