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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Magbanua’s Attorneys Chide Prosecutors' Fishing Expedition To Determine Who Is Paying Her Attorneys' Fees In Markel Murder Case

MagnaubaTallahassee Democrat, Magbanua's Attorneys: State on a 'Fishing Expedition':

Katherine Magbanua’s attorneys say prosecutors are on a fishing expedition to figure out who is paying her legal fees.

Last month, Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman set out to figure out whether the former in-laws of slain Florida State University law professor Dan Markel were paying for two Miami lawyers defending Magbanua, who is suspected of being the conduit in the murder-for-hire plot.

Cappleman said the money trail leads to co-conspirators in the case. But in a Friday court filing, Magbanua’s attorneys Tara Kawass and Christopher DeCoste say prosecutors are doing so on the basis of “conjecture rather than proof.” They want Leon Circuit Court Judge James Hankinson to deny the request. A case management conference is scheduled for May 1. ...

Having the Adelsons pay Magbanua’s legal fees could present a conflict of interest for her attorneys. “The state has failed to set forth any facts that make it ‘sufficiently apparent’ that the possibility of a conflict exists,” Kawass and DeCoste wrote. “(They) assume that the members of the Adelson family, none of whom have been arrested or charged in association with this case, are financing Ms. Magbanua’s legal fees, but does so without mere conjecture rather than proof.”

Cappleman asserted that without gainful employment, it would be impossible for Magbanua to pay for her attorneys. She cited the 33-year-old’s 2014 and 2015 income – which investigators say was supplemented by payment for the murder – would not be enough to fund her defense.

Magbanua's attorneys, however, say the prosecution should not be granted access to who pays her legal bill based on "mere speculation." Doing so, they argue, could set a precedent for disclosing such information in any case. It "defies legal standards," their motion says, "but will also give the prosecution the leeway to engage in bad faith 'fishing expeditions' to obtain information to which they are not legally entitled."

People Magazine, 5 Things to Know About the Mysterious Shooting of Popular Florida Law Professor Dan Markel:

  1. Ex-Wife Introduced the Idea of Her Family’s Involvement
  2. Police: Family Conflict Allegedly ‘Motive for This Murder’
  3. Records Connect Murder Suspects to Ex-Wife’s Family
  4. Police Claim Money Also Connects Magbanua to the Adelsons
  5. Ex-Wife Discussed the Suspicion About Her — ‘Because It’s Usually the Ex-Wife’

People Magazine, Did a Divorce Fight Over Children Lead to Florida Professor’s Execution-Style Slaying?:

In the aftermath of a 2012 divorce filing that blindsided him, Florida State University law professor Dan Markel tried to stay amicable with his ex-wife, fellow law professor Wendi Adelson, and focus on their two young sons, his friends say.

“He was annoyed that her family was meddling — he thought — in the divorce,” colleague and law professor Fernando Tesón tells PEOPLE. “But I never sensed he was fearful.”

It turns out he may have had reason to be.

His ongoing conflicts with Adelson over child custody abruptly ended on July 18, 2014, when police answered a 911 call just after 11 a.m. to find him shot point-blank in the head.

Markel was found dead still sitting in his Honda Accord in the garage of his home in suburban Tallahassee, Florida, hours after dropping off his kids at day care. 

Police said he was targeted. He died the following day. ...

As the investigation continues, Markel’s friends are waiting to see where the case’s questions and answers may lead. “I just want to have them confirmed,” law professor Douglas A. Berman tells PEOPLE, “so I can feel some comfort.”

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/03/magbanuas-attorneys-chide-prosecutors-fishing-expedition-to-determine-who-is-paying-her-attorneys-fe.html

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Comments

An interesting problem. Surely it should be ok for someone to choose between no attorney, a public defense attorney, and an expensive attorney paid for by someone with an ulterior motive. One way to remove the conflict would be to require the third-party payor to pay in advance for a substantial part of the fees. I've heard the defense attorneys require payment in advance ordinarily anyway, since their clients aren't always trustworthy.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Mar 28, 2017 6:19:01 AM

Don't the Rules specifically allow third parties to pay lawyer fees as long as the attorney keeps client confidentiality?

Even if there is a conflict, what does that have to do with the prosecution or judge in this case? Shouldn't it be raised with the state's bar disciplinary committee?

Posted by: brad | Mar 29, 2017 12:35:33 PM

No clue what the law is.

If the defense attorneys are actually working for the Adelson's, this may explain why a plea agreement hasn't yet been concluded.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 31, 2017 11:06:56 PM