The story of a banned Swedish lawyer because she had a love affair with her client

In Sweden, a lawyer was banned from the profession because she represented a member of a criminal group who was also her lover. The Supreme Court confirmed the decision.

Sweden Supreme Court
Courtroom of the Swedish Supreme Court | © Sveriges Domstolar

A lawyer in Sweden shortly represented her lover accused of attempted murder but was later banned from the profession. The Supreme Court of Sweden on March 22 validated the decision.

The Swedish Bar Association, whose 6,400 members are the only ones officially recognized as lawyers in the country, decided in June 2022 to expel a lawyer because she was considered to have neglected her duties in aggravating circumstances.

The lawyer had a “close personal relationship” with a suspect she represented. For the association, her behavior breached its code of conduct and the requirement of integrity and independence. According to the code of conduct, “a lawyer must avoid any impairment of his or her independence and be careful not to compromise his or her professional standards in order to please the client, the court or third parties.”

But the lawyer appealed the decision. She argued the code doesn’t forbid representing someone with whom a lawyer has a close relationship, that the relation was sporadic, “more like a romance than a relationship,” and her assignment as his public defender extremely limited in time. The lawyer resigned from the assignment about a month after a prosecutor pointed out it was inappropriate.

Violence between rival criminal groups in Gävle

Outbreaks of violence between two rival gangs, the Blue group and the Red group, emerged in 2020 in Gävle, a mid-size city in the center of Sweden. It is said it started with a feud between a few people over drug dealing and unpaid debt, but things escalated.

In August 2020, six men were charged with attempted murder for a shooting in Gävle. A successful lawyer, Catrin Listad, represented one of the defendants in court, EM according to the Supreme Court ruling, who was considered by the police as the leader of the so-called Red group. EM was also shot at later in August.

During the investigation, Ms. Listad was, for a moment, suspected of being an accomplice to the murder attempt. She was in a car when weapons were allegedly transported. She allegedly rented an apartment containing ammunition and drug where EM lived. The criminal investigation was dropped against Ms. Listad. But it turned out she had a love affair with her client.

She engaged in several transactions unrelated to her assignment as a defense attorney. She rented a car for her lover, bought him a mobile phone and paid for a hotel room where they saw each other.

The lawyer started representing EM as a public defender in July 2019 when he was suspected of aggravated theft. The case was later dismissed in the same month. In August 2019, she also represented him in a case of aggravated unlawful coercion. According to Supreme Court documents, they started a love affair in the spring of 2020.

She stopped representing her client in September 2020 after a prosecutor’s comments. The lover was sentenced to nine years in prison for attempted murder, which was reduced to three years and a half in an Appeal Court.

Then in November 2021, one of the leaders of the Red Group was shot dead in the streets of Gävle. Ms. Listad represented one of the two suspects in court but considered there was no conflict of interest even though she represented two clients from rival gangs. She remained a defense attorney in the case. According to the Swedish Bar association, she also shared his name with her lover, breaking the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality.

The two suspects were given 12 and 14 years in prison in the summer of 2022. But once the verdict was given in June 2022, the Swedish Bar Association decided to ban Ms. Listad and remove her lawyer title from her. (The two men appealed the decision and were later acquitted for lack of evidence in September 2022.)

Ms. Listad appealed the association’s decision, hoping it would be mitigated and replaced by a penalty and a warning. She argued the mobile phone was hers and he took it from her, that she rented the apartment for herself and he probably took a spare key to stay without her permission, and she paid for expenses such as in restaurants but when they were together.

But the Supreme Court, the highest jurisdiction of Sweden, confirmed the exclusion, considering there were “striking risks that irrelevant considerations would be taken into account” by the lawyer in defending EM in August 2020 knowing his past. “CL did not meet the requirements of independence and integrity that apply to the position of a public defender. By accepting the assignment, CL neglected her duties as a lawyer,” the court justified in its ruling.

Ms. Listad was married and when her husband found out about her extramarital relationship in 2020, he planned on killing her lover with the help of three persons. The police uncovered the plan before it was supposed to happen in the summer of 2020, only few days before the gang leader was arrested. The police now also link her husband to a criminal gang in Uppsala, a city south of Gävle where they lived.

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