Friday, October 22, 2010

The Defenders Episode 5

This week's episode of The Defenders again provided some material for discussion. (For a discussion of previous episodes go here and here.) If you want to watch the episode before reading my comments on it go here (select the video tab and click on the episode aired Oct 20).

The main story in this week's episode was definitely lame. But, as expected, there was an ethics related side story of interest. In fact there were two different ethical issues in this week's show: whether a lawyer can have sexual relations with a client and whether the attorney can disclose confidential information about a client.

As usual, the episode revolves around two stories - one case handled by Nick (Jim Belushi) and another case handled by Pete (the other guy whose name I don't know). In this episode, the ethical issues are both related to Pete's case. He is hired by an attractive young woman who is obviously interested in having more than a professional relationship with Pete. Nick reminds him he can't sleep with a client. Pete assures him he never has and that he won't in this case either. After Pete negotiates a plea bargain, he does spend the night with the client rationalizing that since the case is over he is no longer her lawyer. While at her place, he discovers incriminating evidence that suggests she was guilty of the crime and that she is planning a future crime.

Pete goes back to Nick, tells him what he discovered and that he thinks he has to report her to the authorities. Nick first asks him whether the plea bargain has been accepted by the court already. When Pete says no, Nick concludes several important things: the client is still a client, which means that Pete slept with a client, and the information he acquired is confidential.

At this point there is a memorable moment in TV history. Nick pulls out a book from his bookshelf and reads part of Rule 1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct out loud. Someone writing (or consulting) for this show actually knows what they are doing. Typically, other shows would have started to talk about "privilege" instead of confidentiality. I was very pleasantly surprised to see they got it right!

Watch the show to see how they handled it all in the end....

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