The fundamental rule of lawyers is that the guilt or innocence of the defendant or the civil liability of a defendant rests with the fact-finding, not his lawyer. In criminal cases, this right is guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and is generally present in each state’s constitution as well. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “[i]In all criminal proceedings, the accused shall have the right … to have the assistance of a lawyer for his defense. “Section I of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to provide attorneys for indigent criminal defendants, so this rule applies to everyone’s day-to-day life. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 US 335, 342 (1963).
The attorney works within a framework of rules that prohibits the disclosure of adverse information communicated by the client, except when necessary to prevent imminent death or substantial harm. For example, Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 3.130 (1.6) requires an attorney not to disclose information unless it is necessary to do his or her job as an attorney, and this may even include admitting that the attorney represents the client! Therefore, the client can decide in a criminal case whether to plead guilty, accept any negotiated settlement, and even testify at trial. The attorney cannot insist that the client do what the attorney believes is best. Even if the client has admitted to his lawyer that he committed the crime for which he is accused, the lawyer cannot insist that the client plead guilty to the charge.
There is no right to an appointed attorney in civil cases, unlike criminal cases, and one of the difficulties for civil litigants is finding the right attorney. When a person consults with an attorney about whether the attorney would be the right attorney for a case, that conversation is confidential. Again, there are circumstances in which the attorney may be forced to disclose the contact, but those are very few. Many people feel that they cannot afford to hire an attorney, but attorney’s fees are not unlimited. While there is no constitutional right to an attorney in a civil case, court rules place limits on the fees charged by attorneys; Those rules prohibit an attorney from charging an excessive fee and often define the factors that must be taken into account in determining whether a fee is reasonable.