In re Pautler
47 P.3d 1175 (Colo. 2002)

  • Neal was a psycho who killed three people and left one alive. He gave instructions to the live one to call the police and page him when they arrived.
  • The police showed up, called Neal’s cell phone and Neal spent hours bragging about the crimes. The police asked Neal to turn himself in, but Neal said he wouldn’t do so unless they got him a lawyer.
  • The police talked to Pautler, who was a Deputy District Attorney. Pautler attempted to find a defense attorney for Neal, but they couldn’t find the one Neal requests do so on short notice.
    • In addition, Pautler and the police concluded that a defense attorney would tell Neal to stop talking, and they needed him to keep talking so they could get a conviction.
  • Pautler used a pseudonym and pretended to be a Public Defender. He advised Neal to turn himself in, and agreed to fight for the terms Neal set for his surrender.
    • Neal turned himself in, believing that he had an attorney.
  • Neal was appointed a real Public Defender by the Court, but was confused about what happened to his first one. The new Public Defender alerted the Court to Pautler’s deception.
    • Neal got the death penalty.
  • The Attorney Regulation Counsel charged Pautler with violating Rule 4.3 and Rule 8.4(c).
    • Rule 4.3 says that attorneys representing one client in a matter (the government) cannot contact unrepresented parties (Neal) without being very clear about where their loyalties lie.
      • Rule 4.3 is designed to stop attorneys from giving bad advice to unrepresented people who believe that they are getting unbiased advice. In this case Neal thought he was talking to his lawyer, when he was really talking to the prosecutor.
    • Rule 8.4(c) says attorneys cannot engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
  • The Board found that Pautler violated Rule 4.3 and Rule 8.4(c). Pautler appealed.
    • The Board suspended Pautler’s license for three months, plus some other penalties.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • Paulter unsuccessfully argued that his actions were justified to apprehend a manic serial killer. But the Appellate Court found that prosecutors are actually under a higher ethical standard than civil attorneys.
      • “Even a noble motive does not warrant a departure from the Rules of Professional Conduct.”
    • Paulter unsuccessfully attempted to create an exception for “imminent public harm.” However, the Court found that Neal was attempting to negotiate his surrender, so there was no threat of imminent harm.
    • The Appellate Court found that Paulter made no attempt to correct his actions by speaking with Neal’s real defense attorney.
    • Paulter unsuccessfully argued that he never gave Neal any advice, therefore he didn’t technically violate Rule 4.3. But the Appellate Court found that Paulter purported to represent Neal, which is a violation of the Rule.