The primary issue in this case is whether Respondent and attorney Laura Paul (“Paul”) were “associated in a firm” at the time of the relevant events such that Paul’s client was also deemed to be Respondent’s client. The Commission filed a verified complaint on June 27, 2005, charging Respondent with violating the following Indiana Professional Conduct Rules: 1.6(a), which prohibits revealing information relating to representation of a client without the client’s informed consent; 1.8(b), which prohibits using information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client without the client’s informed consent, as imputed to Respondent by Rule 1.8(k); and 1.8(k), which provides that while lawyers are associated in a firm, certain prohibitions that apply to any one of them applies to all of them.
Conclusion (slip op. at 7): The Court concludes that Respondent did not commit the attorney misconduct charged and therefore enters judgment in his favor.
Key Analysis (slip op. at 6): Under the Putnam County system, the public defenders simply share office space and support services provided for their use by the courts. They are not deemed to be members of a firm, at least for the purpose of the rule that information acquired by one lawyer in a firm is attributed to another . . . In the current case, Paul gave Respondent information about someone, who turned out to be XY, who was acting against his client AB’s interests. Because XY was not his client, Respondent did not violate any of the cited provisions in passing on the information he received to AB’s other attorney.
Shepard, C.J., and Dickson, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.
Sullivan, J., dissents with separate opinion: “The central issue in this case is whether the Putnam County public defender’s office is a “firm” within the meaning of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct . . . I respectfully dissent. I believe that the Court employs an overly technical, indeed, near-sighted, definition of “firm” and in doing so loses sight of the principal interest at stake here: the inviolability of client confidences . . .”