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State v. White

Tennessee Supreme Court
114 S.W.3d 469 (2003)


Facts

Jeremy White was indicted for criminal offenses by a Shelby County grand jury. White retained attorney Mark McDaniel (defendant) to defend him. During the time McDaniel was acting as defense counsel for White, McDaniel was also serving as a part-time prosecutor in Shelby County, tasked with prosecuting municipal violations, as well as assistant district attorney general, with the power to prosecute state criminal-law violations. In 2001, the Board of Professional Responsibility for the State of Tennessee issued an advisory opinion concluding that an attorney’s simultaneous status as an assistant district attorney general and defense counsel in the same area was unethical because a prosecutor’s duties to the public are necessarily conflicting with the duties a defense counsel owes to his client, and such conflict cannot be waived by the public. The State of Tennessee (plaintiff) moved to disqualify McDaniel from representing White. McDaniel contended that he was sufficiently detached from the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office so as to continue as White’s counsel with no conflict of interest. White testified that he agreed to waive any conflicts of interest. The trial court determined that McDaniel’s dual roles gave rise to at least a perceived conflict of interest that could not be waived without the state’s consent. The court of criminal appeals affirmed, but held that the conflict was actual rather than perceived. McDaniel appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Anderson, J.)

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