Monday, August 06, 2007

is it ethical...

to answer a client's family member's questions regarding the client's case?  What if your client's family member is on your side?
We all talk to family members.  Sometimes you can answer their questions, sometimes you have to insist on NOT divulging information to them.  Today in court, my client's mother was there and asked why her daughter couldn't get into therapy instead of doing a year.  I agree, as does the DA - the DA is recommending treatment or 1 year incarceration.  My client has adamantly declined both offers.  She doesn't want to be in therapy.  She's going to lose the case.  She admits she committed the act but doesn't think she should be punished for it.  If she loses, she will certainly get one year incarceration.  I think therapy is a much better alternative, given the strength of the government's case and the certainty of her incarceration.
So if my client's mother asks why she can't do therapy, do I say, "That's been the offer the entire time and your daughter rejected it."  Or do I say, "I can't really discuss the case with you." 
I feel pretty strongly about taking the therapy route, so I said, "I'm not sure.  We MIGHT be able to try it.  But it's really hard to do therapy as a sentence.  I wouldn't usually recommend it.  Unless someone was already really committed to it, it's a big risk because it's a long time to receive therapy, and if something happens along the way, it lands you in jail for one year.  Therapy is good, but it's difficult to do it in a courtroom with the judge and DA breathing down your neck."
I was hoping that throwing it out there, Mom can help me convince my client to take it.  And if my client doesn't want it, then she can always blame me, saying that I said it's too hard and too easy to end up in jail that way. 
Anyone else?  What would you have done?

1 comment:

Gideon said...

You're right - it is a tough spot. I try to avoid getting into specifics, unless the client has given me prior permission to discuss this. If I really want to get the mother involved, so she can help convince the client, then I might go talk to the client and say, "your mother is here, she wants to know what's going on. Everything we talk about is confidential, so do you want me to discuss it with her?"

This is assuming you have the time to do so. Err on the side of confidentiality, always.