Conflict of interest
District Attorney-Elect, Centre County
On Nov. 21, I advised Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro and current Centre County District Attorney Parks Miller that I have conflicts of interest in the Piazza case and Commonwealth vs. McClure. Because I previously served as counsel to some of those involved in these cases, I sought the advice of the State Bar Ethics Committee about how to handle these matters going forward. I have been advised to ask the Attorney General to take over these cases. I have done that so these cases can move forward in an efficient, timely, and above board manner.
Here are the relevant points of law that impact me as I shift my role from defense attorney to prosecutor: Rule 1.9 Duties to Former Clients and Rule 1.11 Special Conflicts of Interest for Former and Current Government Officers and Employees. These Rules govern what an incoming prosecutor can and cannot do upon taking office. First, the Rules of Professional Responsibility prohibit a defense attorney from acting as a prosecutor in a matter involving a former client. Second, these Rules also preclude an attorney from participating in a matter in which the attorney participated personally and substantially while in private practice–unless both the client and the Commonwealth give informed consent to that representation. That sort of agreement might be possible in situations where the stakes are small, but not in cases like these.
I ran for office on a promise that I would work to restore integrity to our legal system. Doing so means I must follow the ethics rules imposed on me and ensure that cases are not delayed. For these reasons, I am acting now as opposed to after taking office. Given that I will have no role in these cases, I have no further comment on the matters.