From time to time, courts manifest their “apparent unawareness of the function of the independent lawyer as a guardian of our freedom.” Wheat v. United States, 486 U.S. 153, 172 (1988) (Stevens, J., dissenting), quoting Walters v. Nat’l Ass’n of Radiation Survivors, 473 U.S. 305, 371 (1985) (Stevens, J., dissenting). The recent opinion in United States v. Salvagno, 02 CR 51 HGM (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2003) is no exception.
In Salvagno, Judge Howard Munson disqualified Jeffrey Bernfeld, one of the lawyers who, for over three years, had been actively representing Alexander Salvagno in an investigation and indictment. The defendant was facing an impending trial, for federal charges ranging from RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), and money laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), to environmental crimes, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401, 7413; 15 U.S.C. § 2601, and filing a false tax return, 26 U.S.C. § 7206. Judge Munson thought he detected a conflict of interest, not because of anyone Bernfeld currently or previou
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