Perhaps more of a question concerning legal culture than individual laws. I am writing a story with this as a subplot, and I want to know what could happen to either party if a judge/prosecutor's office/public defender's office/bar association etc were to find out.

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    Are they involved in any of the same cases?
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 21:43
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    A real world case in Colorado of a prosecutor and a judge having a romantic relationship while the prosecutor still prosecuted cases before that judge had severe ethical consequences for both in addition to unsettling a significant number of convictions obtained in those cases. This is not quite analogous but one of the closer example I can recall actually seeing happen. denverpost.com/2007/04/24/judge-prosecutor-admit-affair
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 22:57
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    There was a real world example of such a case in Washington State in 2020 that had massive implications. oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/2020/11/…
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 23:03
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    The outcome might not be the same in all jurisdictions, although I don't think that common law legal systems would treat these cases very differently.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 23:07
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    One of the main consequences is that their friends will make Ally McBeal jokes about them
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


If the two lawyers will never be on opposing sides of a case, there's no conflict of interest and thus nobody cares. For example, two lawyers in different fields probably won't encounter a conflict.

If the lawyers are involved in the same field, there's a risk of a conflict of interest. Normally, the lawyers can shield themselves from legal trouble by disclosing the conflict any time it comes up. Where possible, the lawyers should avoid such cases before the conflict even starts (i.e., a lawyer should not take a case if they believe that the other lawyer will be on the other side). Similarly, disclosing the relationship to their boss allows their boss to avoid assigning such cases.

In short: Such a relationship could have consequences, but a competent, ethical lawyer is unlikely to experience them.

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    One tricky implication of this is that the relationship has to be disclosed early on to virtually the entire criminal bar (the DA's office and public defender's office) when its is a fragile relationship in order to be ethically compliant.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 23:08
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    @ohwilleke: Good point. For a couple that met via a dating website the jump from "not dating" to dating" is more clear-cut ("we've been on X dates. We should probably disclose.") For a relationship that grew organically between two colleagues (possibly starting with mutual respect), the line is far blurrier. I still think this is more likely to introduce relationship drama than legal drama, but I don't think it's possible to research this (because relationship drama is typically private). Well, in OPs case relationship drama might be a good thing.
    – Brian
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 15:54
  • There are some ethics opinions from state bar associations, state supreme courts, and the ABA on the topic, although I can't cite any right off.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 18:48

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