The federal Prosecutor's Office filed a motion yesterday alleging a conflict of interest by the legal representation of the former secretary Julia Keleher, and requested a hearing "as soon as possible" to determine whether such a conflict exists.
According to the motion filed by federal prosecutor José Capó Iriarte, lawyers María Domínguez Victoriano and Javier Micheo Marcial have also served as legal advisors for multiple witnesses that the Prosecutor's Office intends to call the trial – scheduled for May 2020 – for matters related to the case.
If the Court determined that such a conflict of interest exists, both Dominguez and Micheo would be prevented from defending Keleher for the remainder of the case and the trial.
"The dilemma in which Dominguez and Micheo will meet if the Court allows them to remain as Keleher's lawyer is that at the trial they will have to question their own current or former clients whom they represented in matters directly related to this case, and who owes a fiduciary duty, ”said Capó.
Keleher pleaded not guilty in the seven criminal charges against him, after a federal grand jury accused her – along with other former government officials and former contractors – for conspiracy to commit fraud, theft, electronic fraud, money laundering and conspiracy for money laundering
According to the motion, prior to the indictment in July, Dominguez had notified the Federal Prosecutor during the course of the investigation that legally represented the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Company C (as described in the indictment) and Individual K, in relation to the investigation of the case. The motion shows that Dominguez also represents or represented Oriental Bank & Trust Company, which will be called as a witness.
The grand jury investigation resulted in a formal indictment against Keleher. After the accusation, Domínguez and Micheo assumed the legal representation of the former Secretary of Education. The motion argues that it follows logically that by jealously advocating on behalf of Keleher – as ethically required – Dominguez and Micheo must interrogate these witnesses.
On the alleged conflict, the motion relates, for example: “After the citation of the Popular Bank was delivered, the United States (the public prosecutor) received an email from Dominguez on February 21, 2019 in which Dominguez indicated that I was representing the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico in relation to a grand jury subpoena for records belonging to Company C. Then, on behalf of the Popular Bank, Dominguez requested an extension of time to produce the records belonging to Company C. ”
At the time of the indictment in July, Dominguez was a capital member of the law firm McConnell Valdes, LLC, and Micheo was an associate of that same law firm. The motion indicates that the graduate led the criminal defense, white collar and government defense practice team of the firm, and Micheo was a member of the team led by Dominguez. But as of September 20, 2019, Dominguez and Micheo resigned from McConnell Valdés, LLC and launched their own firm, DMRA, LLC.
"Despite their dissociation from McConnell Valdés, LLC, Dominguez and Micheo continue to maintain a fiduciary duty with Keleher, Company C, Individual K, Banco Popular and Oriental Bank & Trust," the motion argues.
Prosecutor Capó recalled in the motion that the District of Puerto Rico has established local rules that specifically include standards for the professional conduct of lawyers in the exercise of their duty.
"To maintain the effective administration of justice and the integrity of the Court, each lawyer admitted or authorized to practice before this Court shall comply with the standards of professional conduct required by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the" Model Rules "), adopted by the American Bar Association, ”the motion continues.
The motion cites, for example, Rule 1.9 (a), which states that "a lawyer who has previously represented a client in a matter shall not represent another person in the same matter or in a substantially related matter in which the The interests of that person are materially adverse to the interests of the former client, unless the former client gives informed, confirmed written consent. ”
According to the arguments presented, the Model Rules have identified “special considerations” regarding the simultaneous representation of two clients in the same matter. But, the lawyer should keep in mind that, if common representation fails because potentially adverse interests cannot be reconciledIn general, you will be forced to withdraw from representing all clients.
"In some situations, the risk of failure is so great that multiple representation is simply impossible," the motion emphasizes.