A Conflict to One is a Conflict to All

State v. Nickels No. 96943-4 (January 30, 2020), Washington Supreme Court.

Brief: By plurality opinion, the intermediate appellate court’s decision disqualifying the prosecuting attorney’s office was proper because the elected prosecuting attorney’s previous involvement in defendant’s defense was not extraordinary, and no further analysis was required to conclude that office-wide disqualification was appropriate; State v. Stenger—holding that an elected prosecuting attorney’s previous representation of a defendant in either the same case or a closely interwoven matter should ordinarily disqualify the entire prosecutor’s office—remains good law, and the amendments to RPC 1.10(d) and 1.11 cmt. 2 enumerated a general rule for imputation of conflicts of interest between government attorneys and their offices that is in harmony with Stenger’s narrow rule.

Translation: If a prosecutor formerly represented a defendant in the same case or closely interwoven case, the entire office is disqualified from pursuing prosecution. A different office can prosecute the defendant.

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