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A part-time prosecutor may work as a criminal defense lawyer, especially if he or she is hired solely to investigate a district attorney’s office, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled. The issue came up recently when Alapaha Circuit Chief Judge Brooks E. Blitch III appointed Charles R. Reddick as a part-time district attorney pro tem to look into whether an investigator in District Attorney Robert B. Ellis’ office had misused a Berrien County credit card. Less than a month after his appointment, Reddick — who has a private criminal practice in Homerville — agreed to represent Mark Redd, who was charged with drug possession. According to the opinion, Reddick informed Redd of his work as DA pro tem and Redd agreed to sign a conflict waiver. Two weeks later, Alapaha District Attorney Robert B. Ellis moved to disqualify Reddick from representing Redd. The trial court denied the motion. On May 10, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld that decision. State v. Redd, No. A00A1059 (Ct. App. Ga., May 3, 2000). The opinion by Judge Frank M. Eldridge indicates that simply serving as a DA pro tem does not immediately create a conflict to the private practice of criminal law. Judges G. Alan Blackburn and Anne Elizabeth Barnes joined. Reddick says he didn’t expect Ellis to be as aggressive as he has been, but he was pleased with the appeals court decision. “All of a sudden I’m supposed to be disqualified from everything,” Reddick says. “It’s kind of a surreal situation.” Reddick says “110 percent” of Ellis’ motion to disqualify him stems from his investigation of the DA’s office. Ellis was in court Tuesday and did not return phone messages. Ellis had argued in his motion that serving as a part-time prosecutor should disqualify Reddick from criminal defense work. A DA pro tem, he argued, is subject to the same regulations as an elected district attorney and should likewise be barred from all private practice. The appeals court disagreed. Eldridge wrote that while O.C.G.A. 15-18-10 states no district attorney receiving an annual salary under that section may engage in private practice, Reddick was paid by the hour. The wage was determined by dividing the district attorney’s annual salary by 2,080 hours, with Reddick then billing for the hours he worked on the case. In his opinion Eldridge wrote that the Legislature likely foresaw that judges would draw part-time DAs from the ranks of practicing criminal lawyers. “To cut off the livelihood of the most qualified of these criminal attorneys would make it almost impossible to find a competent private attorney who would accept the position,” the opinion reads. Eldridge noted that Reddick’s duties were to be part-time and to pertain only to the investigation of the DA’s office about unauthorized credit card use. The conditions also specified that before representing any criminal defendant, Reddick would have to schedule a conflict waiver hearing in the proper court. In his brief, Ellis argued that part-time prosecutorial work by its nature constitutes a conflict with practicing criminal defense work. “Loyalty to the client is the most fundamental rule of our system of justice,” Ellis wrote. “Chuck Reddick must be required to elect who he actually represents. ‘No servant can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.’ Luke 16:13.” In his order, Eldridge indicates that Ellis might be applying Biblical standards to the wrong issue. “The DA misunderstands that the ‘service’ referenced in Luke 16:13 is from the Greek ‘douleuo,’ i.e., the service a slave owes to its master, which reference is of course completely inapplicable in the professional legal context now before us,” Eldridge wrote. Eldridge also wrote that, far from having an attorney-client relationship, Reddick and Ellis’ office have an adversarial relationship. Without evidence that Reddick’s service as DA damages Redd’s case, the DA’s office has no standing to get Reddick disqualified, the opinion says. “There is absolutely no contention before this Court that defendant Redd will suffer adverse consequences because Reddick is a part-time DA pro-tem,” Eldridge wrote. The appeals court agreed with the trial court that Reddick did not compromise his client or his duties as district attorney pro tem. “It appears that the only one who will benefit by Reddick’s disqualification from the practice of law is the Alapaha DA’s Office, which Reddick is assigned to investigate and prosecute,” the opinion reads. Eldridge noted that if Reddick were forced to forsake his private practice to serve as DA pro tem, Reddick likely would give up the prosecution of the DA staff. “However, in noting such fact, this Court expresses no opinion with regard to the DA’s motive for moving to disqualify Reddick from the practice of law,” it reads.

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