Donald Trump's defense attorney in the Stormy Daniels case has an ethical conflict, according to a legal expert.
Joe Tacopina, who's representing the former president in an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office, revealed five years ago that Daniels approached him about representing her before she hired Michael Avenatti as her lawyer in the hush-money case that led to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's conviction.
"I can't really talk about my impressions or any conversations we had because there is an attorney-client privilege that attaches even to a consultation," Tacopina told CNN's Don Lemon on March 16, 2018.
Tacopina had previously confirmed that Daniels had contacted him to possibly represent her in the case, which he never did, but that should be enough to prohibit him from serving as Trump's lawyer in the case under American Bar Association and New York Rules of Professional Conduct, according to law professor Ryan Goodman.
"Even when no client-lawyer relationship ensues, a lawyer who has had discussions with a prospective client shall not use or reveal information learned in the consultation," states ABA Rule 1.18. "A lawyer subject to [that rule] shall not represent a client with interests materially adverse to those of a prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter if the lawyer received information from the prospective client that could be significantly harmful to that person in the matter."
"If a lawyer is disqualified from representation under this paragraph, no lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in such a matter," the rule continues.
New York uses virtually identical wording to establish the same prohibition, which Goodman said should be enough to disqualify Tacopina as Trump's lawyer in any case involving the adult film actress.
"Tacopina did not subsequently represent Daniels," Goodman wrote. "But Rule 1.18 ('Duties To Prospective Client') already kicked in -- which he acknowledged."