Bar Counsel Notes: Termination of Representation

Attorney was court-appointed to represent a Defendant who plead guilty to various drug crimes. The representation ended several months ago and that former client/Defendant was encouraged to retrieve his file. He has now been charged with new drug crimes. Recently, he has called attorney, asking questions, yelling and threatening post-conviction review of the first case. He has also berated Attorney for allegedly not sharing information with him. Does Attorney have to continue to try to answer his questions? Does Attorney have to accept new court-appointment if she's called to do so regarding the new charges?

The representation has ended several months ago and this former client is fully aware of that, due to his conviction and Attorney's previous offer to send his file to him. Attorney does not have to - and probably should not - continue to try to answer Defendant's questions. Instead, Attorney should send former client a letter, reminding and confirming for him that the court-appointed representation has ended and Attorney will not continue to take his calls. Attorney should keep a copy of his file in the event Defendant files a post-conviction proceeding or a bar complaint. Also, while courts often seek to appoint the same counsel for a client, Attorney should inform the Clerk of his desire and request not to be appointed to this particular client. See MRPC 1.15(f) [Safekeeping Property] and 6.2 [Accepting Appointments].

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.