Kirk Nurmi’s Roll In The Jodi Arias Mud

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?

Who knows, but in the process, Kirk Nurmi did what a lawyer cannot do. He violated confidentiality.

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.

H/T Jean Jacques Cabou

15 comments on “Kirk Nurmi’s Roll In The Jodi Arias Mud

  1. Richard G. Kopf

    SHG,

    There is an important story here, I think. And, one that should and could be told. That is, a story about why the trial court did not allow counsel to withdraw.

    Appointed lawyers are not slaves. They have a right to withdraw, indeed an obligation to withdraw, when the lawyer’s relationship with the client is broken beyond fixing.

    The story of the public defender’s attempt to withdraw is an important one. It could be told without improperly revealing a client’s confidences. It could be derived from the record of the court proceedings if those proceedings were recorded as they should have been.

    The telling of counsel’s attempt to withdraw is an important one for both the bench and the bar to hear and contemplate. It would have illuminated the very real ethical dilemma lawyers face when their client has acted in ways that make the lawyer’s job impossible.

    On the face of it, I agree with you that the story counsel elected to tell should probably result in jerking his ticket. It’s too bad counsel did not write about the truly important story.

    All the best.

    RGK

      1. John Barleycorn

        It’s hard to sell toothpaste in bottles too but you are right esteemed one selling books is hard.

        But just clear your mind and imagine the possibilities of a comic book series written by that current line up you have put together over at Fault Lines each writting in a hyper stylized version of themselves.

        Think of all the cool stories that could be told in such a format and the video game based on the series could even once and for all put an end to the all those cops and prosecutors shows not to mention those law firm shows on the TeeVee and make discovery a household name.

        P.S. You do know that if you were ever to write a few books it’s nearly a gaurentee you would sell at least a few million copies if you advertised on baking soda boxes and toothpaste bottles right?

  2. Jay

    And a public defender, too? At least he quit, he presumably recognized that we do not do the job for money or fame. Or maybe the people in his office had defended people who make a young woman who is “disturbed” seem like a walk in the park, and it hurt his feelz when they made fun of him.

    1. Bob

      Not that it matters much, but I don’t think Nurmi worked for the Public Defender. He’s a lawyer in private practice who had a defense contract with Maricopa County.

  3. mb

    I hate pulling books off of shelves and destroying them. Can’t we try denying the author and publisher any profits and see how that works?

    1. SHG Post author

      I hate the idea as well, but when the content is someone else’s confidences that should never have been revealed, there is no other answer.

      1. mb

        Even destroying the book won’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. But if you take away the entire sale price of the book from everyone who touches it in the stream of commerce, it will disappear from the shelves just as quickly.

        1. SHG Post author

          Yeah, there is no putting the toothpaste back in the bottle. That’s the perpetual problem with a lawyer who violates his duty.

  4. Dan

    Maybe its because I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not as horrified as Scott about this.

    “He should be disbarred and the book should be pulled from the shelves and destroyed.”

    He had to know telling-all was against the rules, and would involve shitting all over Arias in public. Since he obviously hates her and she’s a convicted murderer, he’s decided to go ahead and do it anyway.

    So. Disbarred, sure. The bar association has the power to kick him out of their club. He broke the club’s rules (you do not talk about Lawyer Club)!

    But have the book pulled from the shelves? No. He has a right to publish whatever he wants, and face the (professional) consequences. He published it, it’s out there, there’s no take-backsies and even if there were, nobody could force him to.

    Violating confidentiality is not a crime, it’s just against the rules of the bar association. He is free to blab to whomever he wants if he doesn’t want to be a lawyer any more.

    My guess is he calculated that he’d make enough money off the book that he didn’t care if he’s disbarred. A whole career as a PD probably isn’t as lucrative as a single sensational book deal. Or maybe it was just less fun.

    TLDR: Disbar whomever you like, but the bar association doesn’t have the power to order book-burnings.

    1. SHG Post author

      No. He has a right to publish whatever he wants, and face the (professional) consequences.

      No, he does not. Confidentiality is not “just” a bar association rule. It’s also the law. None of the information he obtains through the course of his representation is his to give away. He has no right to publish his client’s confidences. None.

      That you’re not a lawyer could explain why you don’t know about the law. That it doesn’t disturb you that a lawyer’s revelation of his client’s confidences cannot be explained.

    2. mb

      “Maybe its because I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not as horrified as Scott about this.”

      It is. I’m barely a lawyer, and I’m horrified about it. All the free speech rights in the world don’t do any good if the courts don’t function. Even though I suggested above to use a market rather than a wood chipper to stop the spread of the offending material, there is no free speech issue here. The only way there could be is if it were a prior restraint.

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