The issues in this opinion are not easily summarized. The question involves the potential for conflicts of interest when one spouse works for one agency handling public defense matters, and another spouse works for another agency handling public defense matters. What are the actual and potential conflicts of interest that may arise in such a situation and will those potential or actual conflicts affect other attorneys in those offices? Further, what actions, if any, may be taken by attorneys in either agency to minimize the potential for conflicts to arise?
Approval is given to the use of a Chinese Wall to screen the attorney-wife from any involvement with cases handled by the Public Defender's Office in which a co-defendant is represented by the husband-attorney. Disclosure must be given and consent must be obtained where husband-attorney is representing one defendant and a member of the Public Defender's Office (other than the wife-attorney) is representing a co-defendant. The Committee concludes that if a member of the Public Defenders Office (other than the wife-attorney) is representing a defendant, while a member of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy (other than the husband-attorney) is representing the other co-defendant, then no disclosure and consent need be given, provided that appropriate screening measures are implemented.