How cool is it that a lawyer can write a tell-all book after his involvement in a huge, high-profile case? Not cool at all, actually. Not that Kirk Nurmi wasn’t rip-roaring to go about how much he hated representing Jodi Arias, how horrible, inappropriate and twisted she was. Was it all that anger that needed to get out? Was it that he wanted to parlay an unpleasant experience into turning himself into a big name? Was it for the money?
Jodi Arias’ former lawyer, Kirk Nurmi, writes in his newly released book that he was forced to represent a manipulative and intimidating client who was sexually inappropriate and “very disturbed.”
He explains the title of the book, “Trapped with Ms. Arias,” in the introduction, saying the five-year case took an emotional toll on him and prompted him to give up his job at the public defender’s office just to get away from Arias – a move the courts ultimately shot down by ordering him to stay on the case.
“Once I had a sense of where this case was going, I was willing to give up a job … simply to get away from Ms. Arias, and when I did not get away, I realized that I was truly trapped on her case, which also meant I was trapped with her,” Nurmi wrote.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. She sucked. She was awful. The story goes on to reveal all sorts of sordid details of his relationship with his horrible client. How titillating! How scandalous! How fascinating so that people who hate Arias will buy the book and, perhaps, not hate Nurmi for representing her. How wrong.*
ER 1.6. Confidentiality of Information
(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted or required by paragraphs (b), (c) or (d), or ER 3.3(a)(3).
Did Arias consent to Nurmi’s disclosure? Did Nurmi obtain consent after disclosing to Arias what he would be revealing? Given what Nurmi has to say about Arias, it seems inconceivable, and even if it was conceivable, there remains the problem of Arias being disturbed, as Nurmi claims, such that she would be incapable of consenting as lacking the capacity. Because she’s friggin’ disturbed.
And yet, there it is, a tell-all book by a lawyer about his client, in all its scintillating detail. This is inexcusable conduct, no matter how good a story Nurmi has to tell. Do a big case and everybody wants to know the inside story, the “truth,” as if cocktail party chatter is an exception to the obligation to protect our clients’ confidences, or that distant acquaintances are exempt because, well, they really want to get the scoop.
We all have stories, really cool, titillating stories, we learn during the course of our representation. And we take them to the grave, because that’s what our duty to our clients demands.
It doesn’t matter how awful, how horrible, how inappropriate your client was or is. It’s not your story to tell. Kirk Nurmi is a disgrace for having done so. He should be disbarred and the book should be pulled from the shelves and destroyed. A criminal defense lawyer is not entitled to give up his client’s confidences no matter what, and it is an intolerable affront to the profession that Nurmi has done so. There is never an excuse to trash a client, no matter how bad she is. Never.
*In the original post, reference was mistakenly made to Florida Rules, rather than Arizona’s. This has been corrected, although there is no material difference in the rule.