Family law is taking on a whole new meaning in Nevada, where a lawyer son is representing his father in a divorce case against his mother.
This probably wasn't what the mom, Marie Liapis, was expecting when her son Mark Liapis of Reno graduated from law school more than two decades ago.
But Mark Liapis' taking his father Theodore's side in the divorce matter doesn't create a conflict of interest, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled last week.
Which is not to say Mark's mother didn't try her darndest to get him disqualified.
Marie Liapis challenged her lawyer son's representation of his father in court, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. A lower court agreed with Marie, finding there was a potential for lawyer Mark Liapis to be called as a witness in the case.
But Nevada's Supreme Court, in a 3-0 ruling, found the lower court "manifestly abused its discretion." While a lawyer can't be a "necessary witness" at trial, it's OK for a lawyer to "still represent a client in the pretrial stage" -- even if he may later be called as a witness at trial, the court held.
Nevada justices also rejected Marie's other legal arguments:
The mom alleged her son could not "zealously represent" one parent while claiming to "still love both his parents," according to the Review-Journal. But for a conflict-of-interest disqualification, a lawyer must commit an ethical violation or breach a confidential relationship -- neither of which happened in this case, the court explained.
Marie also argued her lawyer son Mark Liapis' representation of his father would create "an appearance of impropriety." But the Nevada justices countered that "appearance of impropriety is no longer recognized by the American Bar Association," the Legal Profession Blog points out. Further, such an argument doesn't work "when the alleged impropriety is based solely on a familial relationship with the attorney," the court explained.
- Top Nevada Court Says Attorney Son Can Represent Dad in Divorce From Mom (ABA Journal)
- Attorney Sanctions: Fee Disgorgement for Conflict of Interest (FindLaw's D.C. Circuit blog)
- Megaupload Lawyer Withdraws Due to Conflict of Interest (FindLaw's In House)
- 5 Professional Responsibility Traps for Young Attorneys (FindLaw's Strategist)