Lawrence v. Bingham, Greenebaum, Doll, LLPAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court adopted the Exoneration Rule, the majority rule across the nation providing that a criminal defense attorney may not be sued for legal malpractice in a case resulting in the conviction of his or her client unless the client has been exonerated by direct appeal or upon post-conviction relief, and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ legal malpractice claim against Defendants.
The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs’ legal malpractice action against Plaintiff’s defense attorneys. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a criminal defendant who has been convicted at trial and whose conviction has not been overturned on appeal or through other post-conviction proceedings may not bring a legal malpractice action against his defense attorneys for alleged negligence occurring during the representation. The Court of Appeals’ opinion was based on the Exoneration Rule, which the court had previously applied. The Supreme Court granted discretionary review to consider the merits of the rule, adopted the rule, and affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed to allege that he had been exonerated of his convictions through post-conviction proceedings, the trial court did not err in dismissing his legal malpractice action without prejudice.