Only a week before trial, the state disclosed a witness who was represented by an attorney in the public defender’s office in obtaining a deal for his testimony against defendant. Although no explicit screening mechanism was in place between that attorney and defense counsel, who also worked in the public defender’s office, no confidential information was disseminated or received by defense counsel; therefore, defense counsel did not have to be relieved.
We affirm the trial court’s finding that no actual conflict of interest existed.
While we agree with defendant that an explicit screening mechanism or addition of outside counsel would be the best remedy for this situation, we do not agree that the absence of an explicit screening mechanism creates an incurable conflict of interest such that the public defender’s office should have been removed from handling his case.
We read Rule 1.10(e) of the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct as providing a way to ensure the public defender’s office is not conflicted out, but we do not read it as requiring any specific procedures to ensure the absence of a conflict.
The trial court adequately determined no confidential information was disseminated or received by defense counsel. Thus, while no member of the office explicitly communicated the need to create a screening mechanism, the testimony of members of the public defender’s office indicates such a wall existed in this case. Accordingly, the public defender’s office accomplished the purpose of the rule and defense counsel did not have to be relieved.
State v. Wright (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-070-18, 5 pp.) (James Lockemy, C.J.) (H. Bruce Williams, J., concurring in the result only without separate opinion) Appealed from the Circuit Court in Jasper County (Michael Nettles, J.) Kathrine Haggard Hudgins for Appellant; Alan McCrory Wilson, Megan Harrigan Jameson, Joshua Abraham Edwards and Isaac McDuffie Stone III for Respondent. S.C. App.