A Florida attorney is being accused of a conflict of interest in a case where a pastor is facing criminal charges of child sexual abuse. The pastor allegedly hired a defense attorney who had previously engaged in a romantic relationship with the pastor’s accuser in 2012, after she became an adult. According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, both the pastor and the lawyer were fully aware of the nature of the relationship. The plaintiff’s lawyer argued that the defense lawyer should be disqualified as he could be called as a potential witness by either party in the case.
The pastor was arrested after the complainant said that he had subjected her to sexual abuse and battery between 2005 and 2010 when she was a minor. He is charged with assaulting her at the church where he served as a pastor between 1999 and 2012. Police say that the pastor admitted to the sexual abuse during a recorded phone conversation and encouraged his accuser to deny that the allegations were true. The victim’s attorney said that the lawyer’s involvement in the case breached his duties of professional responsibility as a Florida attorney as well as the Florida Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights.
The victim’s lawyer said that the accused pastor was aware of the romantic relationship. In response, the defense attorney has stated that the pastor has been his religious advisor for the past two decades. He said that there was no conflict of interest because the romantic relationship was casual and brief.
Lawyers in Florida have a responsibility to practice their profession according to standards of fairness and integrity. Conflicts of interest can undermine the legitimacy of justice. Someone who has been injured by a lawyer’s breach of professional duties can contact a malpractice attorney about their options to pursue compensation.