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Lawyer Disbarred for Tell-All Book About Former Client

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 29, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to attorney-client privileged information: if you don't ask, don't tell.

That's a rough translation of a professional rule that led to the disbarment of Jodi Arias' former attorney, who wrote a book about his client's infamous murder trial. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.9(c)(2) explains that a lawyer has a duty not to reveal information relating to the lawyer's prior representation of a former client. Lawrence "Kirk" Nurmi probably never read the disciplinary footnote, which goes even further:

"The confidentiality rule, for example, applies not only to matters communicated in confidence by the client but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source," according to the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility.

The Devil's in the Bloody Details

Arias was convicted of murdering Travis Alexander, her boyfriend, in the bathroom of his Mesa home in 2008. According to police, he was shot in the head, had his throat slit, and was stabbed 27 times. The case drew national media attention.

Nurmi, a deputy Maricopa County public defender, was appointed to defend Arias but sought to be removed when he quit to pursue private practice. The court denied his request and Arias was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Nurmi then published a book, without his client's consent, about the case called "Trapped with Ms. Arias."

Too Much Information

The Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee of the Arizona Supreme Court authorized the State Bar of Arizona to file a formal complaint against Nurmi for revealing attorney-client privileged information. The book revealed information that was not allowed at trial, and could affect a retrial if his client wins her appeal and is awarded a new trial. Nurmi agreed to disbarment rather than face his accusers in hearings.

It's not the first time a lawyer has been disbarred for telling too much about a former client. Joseph Stork Smith was disciplined for authoring a book about his 20-year relationship with a former client who was active in politics and held a high-level job in the federal government.

The disbarments stemmed from violations of lawyer-client confidentiality rules, which include some exceptions. For example, an attorney may disclose otherwise confidential information with a client's permission or to prevent the commission of a crime or injury to another person.

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