O.J. Simpson can’t seem to stay away from the courtroom, but this time he is back in court asking the court to grant him a new trial in his armed robbery case. He was originally tried and found guilty in 2008 and received a 33 year sentence. O.J. testified this week that his original attorney, Yale Galanter, in the 2008 case, failed to adequately represent him because he had a conflict of interest in representing him. Simpson claimed that Attorney Galanter told him it was okay to use some force to get back some of his football memorabilia from two dealers. This advice ultimately landed Simpson in jail for armed robbery.
Attorneys must follow a state code of ethics. The code of ethics requires that a lawyer not take a position that conflicts with a current client. Once it has been established that a conflict of interest exists, the client’s consent for continued representation in the matter must be obtained. Paralegals do not follow the same code of ethics that apply to attorneys. Sources of information regarding professional conduct for paralegals include national professional associations: NALA, NFPA, and the ABA.
It is important to note that the codes of ethics and professional responsibility developed by NALA and NFPA are voluntary guidelines for their members, and are models to which all paralegals should aspire. The consequences of a paralegal not adhering to the rules of professional conduct can include loss of job, payment of monetary damages to an opposing party, harm to the client, and exposure of the employer to damages or malpractice. Likewise, the rules of professional conduct of the ABA and state bar associations are voluntary. However, state statutes regarding ethics are binding on attorneys, and violation of those statutes can result in reprimand, suspension, or even disbarment.
The topics of conflicts of interest and ethical violations are part of the Ethics and Professional Responsibility course in the AIPS paralegal certificate curriculum. To find out more information on the AIPS paralegal certificate program visit http://www.aips.com/