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A young lady (21) is connected to our family through friendship. Over the last year or so she has had a rough go of it. Central to these issues is a legal dispute with her step-father and the mother has sided with the step-father.

While we do not know the complete details of the situation, the wife and I are pretty sure that it is sexual in nature. There is criminal prosecution against the step-father where the young lady is the key witness.

Recently we found out that the step-father's attorney contacted this young lady. Hearing of the conversation second hand, it sounded like he was trying to manipulate her into dropping the charges. No real threats, but more of the promise of being one big happy family again, that kind of thing. Perhaps the implied threat of never being a family again if she proceeds.

I believe that this sort of thing is clearly against the law and could be grounds for disbarment. It would seem to me, that it would be especially egregious if the case in question was sexual or violent in nature. Am I correct?

If so how does this person proceed with bringing action or making a complaint against this lawyer?

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I believe that this sort of thing is clearly against the law and could be grounds for disbarment. It would seem to me, that it would be especially egregious if the case in question was sexual or violent in nature. Am I correct?

If so how does this person proceed with bringing action or making a complaint against this lawyer?

You are incorrect. This kind of thing is legal and indeed a fairly common thing for an attorney for the stepfather in a situation like this one to do in a criminal case since the victim in a criminal case is not a "represented person."

If she were bringing a civil case against the stepfather with her own attorney this would be unethical, because it would be contact with a represented person, to which any person with knowledge of the situation could file a grievance with state bar authorities. But, it would probably not be an offense considered so serious that it would result in disbarment. A public reprimand or a brief period of license suspension (perhaps a month) or an order to attend an ethics education course, would be more typical in that case.

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    But if the state is pursuing criminal charges there is no restraint on defense attorneys contacting witnesses for the prosecution? At what point does it constitute "witness tampering?" – feetwet Jun 8 '17 at 18:25
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    There would need to be a threat or at least an entreaty asking the witness to lie. The attorney in this case isn't disputing any facts or asking a witness to change her testimony, the attorney is instead trying to ask a person lodging a complaint to change her mind about whether the criminal justice system is the best way to address these facts. Incidentally, rules about contacting witnesses are much different in Europe where it is improper for counsel to contact any witness but his client before their testimony. In the U.S., not doing so is almost malpractice if there is no prior testimony. – ohwilleke Jun 8 '17 at 21:16
  • Thank you for saving me from my own criminal prosecution. Part of me wants to punch the defense attorney in the nose. – Pete B. Jun 9 '17 at 11:32
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What the lawyer has done was not illegal, if it was under the instruction or best interests of the step-father in question.

However, if the lawyer's actions were somehow acting to the detriment of his client, then the client (stepfather) has potential legal recourse.

But in no case are you, or any other 3rd party to the dispute, capable of brining any action to the lawyer, as far as I know, with regards to his actions concerning the dispute.

This doesnt include the possibility that the lawyer acted criminally in some way (note that his actions in your question does not constitute criminal conduct, but a request to drop charges). If the lawyer comitted a criminal offense then you may be able to report him to the police.

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