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Name: United States v. Nickerson
Case #: 07-30382
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 02/25/2009

Counsel’s violation of an ethical conduct rule did not render her performance ineffective. Affirming a criminal judgment imposed by the district court, the appellate court held that an attorney’s violation of a rule of ethics or professional conduct before trial does not constitute per se ineffective assistance of counsel. The court also held that the defendant did not prove that his attorney’s admitted violation of Montana Rules of Professional Conduct 4.2, (she communicated with a represented co-conspirator about this case without the consent of the co-conspirator’s lawyer), created an actual conflict of interest that impaired her ability to effectively represent the defendant; that the defendant’s ineffective counsel claim fails for failure to establish prejudice; and that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to grant a continuance or appoint new counsel once the ethical violation was discovered.