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Attorneys Making Bonds

In Texas, almost everyone accused of a crime is entitled to bail. In some counties, attorneys serve as their clients’ bondsmen. This may be a good idea for the lawyers, but it creates a potential conflict of interest harmful to the clients.


Suppose that a client pays a lawyer to represent her and make her bond. The lawyer has two interests in the case: (1) defending the client; and (2) making sure the lawyer doesn’t lose the bond.

Now suppose that the lawyer, in the course of his representation, learns something that makes him think the client might be less likely to continue to come to court. As a lawyer, he has a duty not to divulge that information (assuming that revealing it is not necessary to prevent the commission of a crime or fraud) or to use it to the client’s disadvantage.

As the bondsman, however, he has a financial stake in the client continuing to come to court. This new confidential information makes him feel less secure in his bond. He has the choice of a) surrendering the bond, thereby using the information to his client’s detriment; or b) not surrendering the bond, thereby putting his money at risk. A defendant who realizes this would rationally from his lawyer information that he thought might reflect poorly on his ability to continue attending court — the exact sort of information his lawyer might need to defend him.

I know that lots of defendants want their lawyers to make their bonds as well. I wouldn’t do it. I want to avoid any position in which my best interest might be contrary to my client’s, and I want my clients to know it.

Technorati Tags: bondsmen, ethics, lawyers



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