Volume 83, Number 2

May 2008

Defensible Ethics: A Proposal to Revise the ABA Model Rules for Criminal Defense Lawyer-Authors

Ria A. Tabacco

This Note identifies ethical issues raised when criminal defense lawyers write non- fiction books about their clients, and it proposes new ethical rules that shift the balance of interests to weigh more heavily in favor of the client. Two principal ethical considerations arise for lawyers who write books about their clients. First, lawyer-authored publications may cause the attorney-client privilege to be waived and may result in adverse legal consequences for the client. Even where legal consequences do not inure, however, publication may violate the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality, principles of client dignity and autonomy, or both. Second, the lawyer- author’s interest in the commercial viability of the client’s story may conflict with the defendant-client’s interests. This Note offers revisions to the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct that would impose a substantial waiting period before defense counsel may publish stories about their clients. The revisions strike a balance between the client’s interest in effective representation, the lawyer’s interest in self-promotion, and the public’s interest in a transparent criminal justice system.