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Legal Memorandum: Attorney's Professional Responsibilities

Issue: Should a court accept an appeal in order to serve the public policy of providing essential guidance to the legal profession?

Area of Law: Ethics & Professional Responsibility
Keywords: Attorney's professional responsibilities; Disqualification
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 849 F.2d 222; 222 F. Supp. 2d 717; 717 F.2d 417; 769 F. Supp. 193
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers §§ 123, 124
Date: 07/01/2007

The Virgin Islands follows the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct to guide decisions relating to an attorney’s professional responsibilities, and the LRCi 83.2 provides that the Model Rules of Professional Conduct governs “subject to such modification as may be required by . . . . decision of law.”  See Brice v. HOVIC, 769 F. Supp. 193, 194 (D.V.I. 1990).

ABA Model Rule 1.10(a) provides that all lawyers associated in a firm are prohibited from representing a client that one of them practicing alone would be prohibited from representing; however, the comments to the rule explain that “screening is accepted in many jurisdiction as a means of preventing firm disqualification when the personally prohibited lawyer has switched firms, even in the private-employment context.”  See Model Rule of Prof’l Conduct R. 1.10(a), Annotated Model Rules of Professional Conduct, 192-193 (5th Ed.).  The editors of the Annotated Model Rules, from the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, note that although the Ethics 2000 commission recommendation to amend Rule 1.10 to permit screening procedures to avoid imputation of conflicts, had not passed, that:

Outside the disciplinary context, numerous courts recognize screening as a valid means to avoid disqualification of a firm when the disqualification results from a lawyer who has recently joined the firm. The Seventh Circuit introduced the concept of screening in Schiessle v. Stephens, 717 F.2d 417 (7th Cir.1983) (three-step approach to disqualification motions). See also Manning v. Waring, 849 […]

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