When your Client is Killed

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Long title: 
When your Client is Killed
Author(s): 
Binford, Warren
Author(s)' contact information: 
Williamette University, Oregon, USA
Conference title: 
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location: 
City University London
Country: 
USA
Year: 
2014

This paper focuses on the real-life experience of our client’s murder by her husband while being represented by law school students in our Child and Family Advocacy Clinic. The murder of the client (“Anna”) not only had a significant impact on all of us mentally and emotionally. It led us into an ethics minefield that could destroy our students’ careers before they had even begun. We could not afford a misstep.
Was Anna still our client? If not, who was? If there was no one to direct us, could we substitute our judgment for Anna’s? How and when would we conclude our representation? What would we do about the domestic relations matter? What about the murder prosecution? Should we, could we assist with the prosecution? Should we consider filing a civil suit? Immigration issues were implicated during Anna’s divorce and the Department of Homeland Security asked us to work with them to make policy changes to protect other young women like Anna. Should we? Anna’s highly-publicized death could serve as a reminder to the community of the plight of abused women. Could we participate in efforts to raise awareness about these victims by discussing Anna’s plight publicly? Had we in some way contributed to our client’s death we wondered both silently and aloud? What could we tell the client’s family? Could we attend her memorial service? Could I (the supervising professor) talk about the case at an international legal ethics conference in London….?

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