About two weeks ago, the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a very interesting case that started last year when a trial judge appointed Cook County Public Defender Amy P. Campanelli to represent a defendant in a murder case. The Public Defender refused to do so arguing that accepting the representation would constitute a concurrent conflict of interest. She also told the judge she could not divulge more information because doing that would constitute a violation of the duty of confidentiality to her other clients. The judge held the Public Defender in civil contempt and fined $250 per day.
In Holloway v Arkansas, the US Supreme Court held that reversal of a conviction should be automatic if the attorney for the defendant had been denied a request for separate counsel for a client based on a conflict of interest at trial. Denying the request would force a defendant to be represented by an attorney with a conflict of interest in violation of the 6th Amendment to the Constitution. Since then, most courts have held that an attorney's request for independent counsel should
be granted because the attorney is in the best position to determine if there
is a conflict.
Based on this case law, it would seem like the contempt conviction should be reversed.
The state argued the conviction should be affirmed because all the judge wanted was for the attorney to provide the basis for the objection to the representation rather than a vague and unsubstantiated claim of possible conflict.
You can listen to the oral argument here. You can also download a video of the oral argument by going to this page and scrolling down to September 12. The case is People v. Cole.