What is a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest occurs when an attorney (or group of attorneys) cannot represent someone because they have a duty of loyalty to another client. For example, two defendants are charged with a crime. Defendant 1 is already represented by the Public Defender’s Office when Defendant 2 requests a public defender. The Public Defender’s Office cannot represent both Defendant 1 and Defendant 2.  Defendant 1 will be represented by the Office of the Public Defender and Defendant 2 will be assigned a conflict attorney.

Why can’t the Public Defender’s Office represent me if there is a conflict of interest?

In State v. Lewis, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel requires representation that is "free from conflicts of interest or divided loyalties." If the Office of the Public Defender has a duty of loyalty to another client,  there is a conflict and you will be assigned a conflict attorney.

Who are Delaware’s Conflict Attorneys?

Conflict attorneys provide services either under annual contracts with the Office of Conflicts Counsel or are appointed by the conflicts office on a case by case basis.  Conflict attorneys are in private practice and are not employees of the Office of the Public Defender.

Conflict attorneys provide representation in Family Court, the Court of Common Pleas, the Superior Court and the Delaware Supreme Court.  Conflict attorneys are located in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.

What happens if the Delaware Public Defender’s Office tells me that they cannot represent me because of a conflict of interest?

When the Public Defender’s Office notifies you that they cannot represent you due to a conflict of interest, they also notify the Office of Conflicts Counsel.  The Office of Conflicts Counsel will assign a conflict attorney to represent you.  If you have an upcoming court date and have not yet been contacted by an attorney assigned to your case, please call the Office of Conflicts Counsel.