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Lawyer Douglas Wigdor Drops Biden Accuser Tara Reade as a Client

The high-profile lawyer representing the woman who has accused presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden of sexual assault — a claim which Biden denies — is apparently off the matter.

In an update to a story originally posted Thursday, the New York Times reported Friday morning that Douglas Wigdor “was no longer representing” Reade.

The representation lasted all of two weeks, The Times noted.

Wigdor has represented accusers of both Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly.

Wigdor did not explain to the Times why he and Reade parted ways; however, he said his departure was “by no means a reflection on whether then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted Ms. Reade.” He said he believed her story.

Under the New York Rules of Professional Conduct which regulate attorneys, a lawyer can decline or terminate a representation for many reasons.  Rule 1.16 lays out the rather complicated specifics; it is on page 90 of this lengthy PDF.  Some of the reasons for withdrawal suggest nefarious conduct is afoot; many, however, are mundane and innocuous.

The rule says a “lawyer shall not accept employment on behalf of a person . . . merely for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring any person.”  A lawyer who finds himself in such a situation “shall withdraw.”  A lawyer must also withdraw if he “is discharged” by the client and at the client’s wishes.  These are mandatory withdrawal provisions.

The rule also allows — but does not require — a lawyer to withdraw under a lengthy list of other scenarios, including, simply put, that the “withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client.”  That’s broad and nontoxic language.  A lawyer may also withdraw when “the client deliberately disregards an agreement or obligation to the lawyer as to expenses or fees.”

The official comments to Rule 1.16, which carry some persuasive weight but which are not rules themselves, illustrate that “[o]rdinarily, a representation in a matter is completed when the agreed-upon assistance has been concluded.”  The comments explain that lawyers can part ways with clients for “mandatory” reasons (forced by law), can be “discharged” by a client “at any time, with or without cause, subject to liability for payment for the lawyer’s services,” or that lawyers can withdraw for “optional” reasons.  Whatever the reasons, all lawyers have duties to go through the formal motions of withdrawal with their clients when parting ways.

It is unclear precisely why Wigdor has disengaged from representing Reade.

Recently, Wigdor told Law&Crime that he was frustrated with scrutiny of Reade. In response to lengthy PBS NewsHour and Politico reports on Reade’s past, Wigdor said “these hit pieces do absolutely nothing to advance the ball. They are full of irrelevant information that would never be admitted in the court of law and for good reason.”

“We will soon be taking next steps to vindicate our client’s rights. Stay tuned!” Wigdor added. Wigdor had challenged Biden to allow a search of his archives at the University of Delaware.

The news stories, the Politico one in particular, quoted a number of people who said Reade was a manipulator, lied to them and didn’t pay money she owed.

The original thrust of the New York Times report was that California lawyers are reviewing testimony provided by Reade, who once went by the name Alexandra McCabe, in nearly a decade’s worth of criminal court cases in Monterey County, California.

Reade/McCabe “served as an expert witness on domestic violence” for prosecutors, the Times reported, and defense attorneys are “concerned that she misrepresented her educational credentials in court.” She “describ[ed] herself as an expert in the dynamics of domestic violence who had counseled hundreds of victims.”

Now, the public defender’s office is “scrutinizing” those cases, at least one of which resulted in a life sentence for attempted murder, arson, and armed robbery.

CNN earlier this week called Reade’s background into question.

Reade told the Times she was abused by her ex-husband and that she changed her name thereafter. The Times, citing Reade, said she “obtained her degree through a ‘protected program’ for victims of spousal abuse” and “later received a law degree from Seattle University.” A spokesperson at Antioch said Reade attended classes but “was certain” Reade “had not received a degree.”

Law&Crime has reached out to Wigdor for comment; we will update this report if we receive a response.

Editor’s note:  this piece has been updated to include a Rule 1.16 analysis.

[Image via YouTube screen capture.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network who now contributes to the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.