As many of our readers know, large law firms routinely conduct what is known as a conflicts check, before undertaking legal representation of a client. This means they look as their list of existing clients, to insure that this new client, and the current client, have no claims, reduced to judgment, or pending and outstanding, against one another.
In criminal defense, it usually means the ongoing representation of a co-defendant, or even a major target in the case, or a crime victim. Most firms stop there, with their inquiry, but sometimes that is not sufficient. Occasionally, a conflict can actually arise during a case, and that is what happened here. One of the firms that represents Reza Zarrab, accused of massive Iran sanctions violations, involving US banks, is Bancroft PLLC. That firm was subsequently acquired by Kirkland & Ellis, and three of the Bancroft attorneys who represented Zarrab, became Kirkland & Ellis members, and thereafter continued to represent him in the criminal case.
Here's the reason for the conflict; Kirkland & Ellis happens to represent Deutsche Bank, and Bank of America, two financial institutions that Zarrab allegedly manipulated; they are banks that he illegally moved Iranian money through. These banks, as victims, may be testifying at trial, have the inherent right to address the Court at sentencing, and also to directly participate in any mandatory restitution that might be ordered by the Court. Some sharp lawyer involved in the case, on the prosecution side, most likely spotted the new issue.
These issues, according to the US Attorney, require what is known as a Curcio* hearing, to insure that the defendant, Zarrab, and the two banks, are advised of the circumstances, and have the the opportunity to elect to waive the conflict. The letter was filed on November 18, 2016 and the Court has not yet addressed this issue.
*United States vs. Curcio, 694 F.2d 14 (2nd Cir. 1982).
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