ATTORNEY WHO HAD PREVIOUSLY PROSECUTED MOTHER FOR ENDANGERING THE WELFARE OF A CHILD SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN APPOINTED TO REPRESENT MOTHER’S CHILDREN IN A CUSTODY MATTER; IN THE ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE MOTHER WAS PREJUDICED BY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION MOTION TO VACATE CUSTODY STIPULATION ON CONFLICT OF INTEREST GROUNDS PROPERLY DENIED.
The Third Department determined Family Court should not have allowed an attorney who, as an assistant District Attorney, prosecuted mother for endangering the welfare of a child, to serve as the children's attorney in a custody matter. Mother moved to vacate the custody stipulation, in part based upon the attorney's (Bielicki's) conflict of interest. The fact that Bielicki should not have been appointed, in the absence of evidence of actual prejudice to mother from the use of confidential information, did not warrant vacation of the stipulation:
The mother … argues that Bielicki's representation of the children violated Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rule 1.11 (c), which provides that “a lawyer having information that the lawyer knows is confidential government information about a person, acquired when the lawyer was a public officer or employee, may not represent a private client whose interests are adverse to that person in a matter in which the information could be used to the material disadvantage of that person.” The rule defines confidential governmental information as “information that has been obtained under governmental authority and that, at the time this Rule is applied, the government is prohibited by law from disclosing to the public or has a legal privilege not to disclose, and that is not otherwise available to the public” … . * * *
Bielicki's assignment as attorney for the children in this matter was contrary to the standards set forth in Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rule 1.11 (c) — and, for that reason, Family Court … should not have permitted Bielicki to serve in that capacity — such error, without more, does not warrant vacatur of the stipulation and order. Matter of Tina X. v John X., 2016 NY Slip Op 02874, 3rd Dept 4-14-16