May 23, 2013
Texas: Facebook "Friendship" Alone Does Not Require Recusal
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of Texas, located in Dallas, held last week that a trial judge's undisclosed Facebook "friendship" with the victim's father in a criminal prosecution alone does not establish grounds for recusal or disqualification. Youkers v. State of Texas, No. 05-11-01407-CR (Tex. App. -- Dallas, May 15, 2013).
Defendant in the case pled guilty to assault of his pregnant girlfriend and received a 10-year sentence suspended for 5-years plus a $500 fine. Three months, later, the State filed a motion to revoke. Defendant entered an open plea of true to the motion's allegations at the revocation hearing. The trial judge sentenced Defendant to eight-years in the state penitentary and later denied the motion for new trial. The Defedant argued on appeal that he was entitled to the new hearing because the judge and the victim's father were undisclosed Facebook "friends" and that the judge had received an improper ex parte message (one favorable to the Defendant) via Facebook from the victim's father prior to sentencing.
The court analyzed the case facts, applicable canons, and further applied the recent ABA Standing Comm. on Ethics & Prof. Responsibity, Formal Op. 462 (February 21, 2013) (authorizing judges to participate in social networking providing such participation complies with relevant ethics rules). The appellate court also examined other Texas cases involving cases where judges presided in cases where the judge had a seemingly close, public relationship with a party. For example, in Lueg v. Lueg, 976 S.W.2d 308, 311 (Tex. App--Corpus Christi 1998, pet denied), cited by the Dallas court, another intermediate appellate court held that the mere fact that a party was a former campaign manager for the judge alone was insufficient to require the judge's recusal. The court rejected Defendant's claim of actual and apparent impartiality on the record and affirmed that ground.
Not all states agree with the approach taken by the ABA (and this Texas court) on judges using social media. Last September, for example, the Florida appeals court held that a judge's Facebook friendship alone presents grounds for disqualification. Domville v. State of Florida, 103 So.3d 184 (Fla.Cir. Ct. 2012) (covered by this blog here). Florida's state judicial ethics commission had previously rendered an opinion applying a restrictive approach to social media use for judges - a different approach than the one adopted by the ABA.
The permissive approach to judicial social media use adopted by the ABA and this Texas Court requires fact-intensive analysis into the relationship between the judge and the social media friend in recusal and disqualification issues. For this reason this issue now of first impression is one likely to be revisited frequently in states applying the ABA's permissive guidelines as more judges enter the social networking world.
May 19, 2013
Files on Conflicts of Interest
Tyler, Texas attorney and State Bar of Texas President Buck Files has written an informative essay on conflicts of interest which appears in the April 2013 Voice for the Defense (page 15). The essay uses the federal case U.S. v. Lopesierra-Gutierrez, No. 07-3137 (D.C. Cir. March 1, 2013) as a starting point to highlight how important it is to be mindful of conflicts when representing defendants in criminal cases - and by extension, any client in any case. Some conflicts are waivable and some are not and knowing the difference between the to might save the practicing attorney a trip before a grievance committee a time or two.
April 23, 2013
Probable Cause Order Details Charges Against Former Texas Prosecutor
On April 19, a Texas court of inquiry charged former Williamson County, Texas district attorney (and current Texas district judge) Ken Anderson with criminal contempt of court, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and tampering with government records arising from Anderson's prosecution of Michael Morton for the murder of his wife while he was district attorney.
Quite famously it was later shown, after Morton spent 25 years in a Texas prison, that Morton did not in fact murder his wife. Over the years, there has been volumes written on this tragic miscarraige of justice - Texas Monthly's comprehensive case coverage is as good a starting place as any for the uninitiated.
In any event, the probable cause order entered by the court of inquiry's presiding judge along with the supporting findings of facts and conclusions of law are now available online here. This article in the Sunday Austin American-Statesman points out that Anderson's statute of limitations defense may be the first hurdle current Williamson County prosecutors have to clear before the charges against Anderson can be brought to a jury.
Hat Tip: Grits For Breakfast
February 07, 2013
Effective Assistance in Plea Negotiations Symposium at Duquesne
Professor Doug Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy commented this morning on what promises to be a very timely and important symposium upcoming at Duquesne Law School. The syposium is called "Plea Bargaining After Lafler and Frye" and will be held February 28-March 1 at Duquesne in Pittsburgh in cooperation with the Criminal Justice Section, White Collar Crimes Committee, Mid-Atlantic Region. The symposium schedule is here.
September 21, 2012
Florida: Facebook Friendship Leads to Judicial Disqualification
Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court held that a defendant's motion to disqualify a trial judge was legally sufficient to require disqualification where the trial judge was a Facebook friend with the prosecutor assigned to the case.
In Domville v. State of Florida, No. 4D12-556, 2012 WL 3826764 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App. Sep. 5, 2012), the defendant filed the motion to disqualify the judge alleging that the judge and prosecutor assigned to the case were Facebook friends. The trial judge denied to motion as legally insufficient.
The appellate court relied upon a 2009 Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opinion that concluded that the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct precluded a judge from both adding attorneys that appeared in their courts as friends, and allowing attorneys so appearing to add the judge as a friend. The Committee opined that such conduct violated Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2B which prohibits judges from conveying or permitting others to convey, "the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge." The Committee also concluded that a judge that Facebook friends an attorney "reasonably conveys to others" the impression that the attorney is in fact in a special position to influence the judge.
The appeals court quashed the trial court's order denying disqualification as a matter of law and returned the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
To date, Massachusetts and Oklahoma judicial ethics committees have joined Florida in taking a restrictive approach to judges using social media. The Massachusetts Committee's opinion on the subject goes so far as to state that a judge may friend an attorney on social media only when that judge would recuse herself if and when the friended attorney appeared before her.
Even in states where judicial ethics committees have taken a permissive approach to judicial use of social media, judges may face disqualification or recusal motions in similar circumstances. The law in this area is very new and uncertain as judges, attorneys and ethics committees develop policies and implement guidelines for judicial use of social media.
January 06, 2011
Lawyer Disciplined For False Notarization Of Court Papers
Matter of Essien, ____A.D.3d___, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 06512 (1st Dep't. August 31, 2010), reminds us that no matter how easy it might be to do, a lawyer should never, repeat never, notarize a signature if he did not see the person sign the document. This lawyer did just that. He was disciplined by the 1st Department with a public censure.
Of course, notaries should also never falsely notarize a dcoument and if they do they can loose their license.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
October 17, 2010
Lawyer Reprimanded For Plagiarism
In re: Cannon is an interesting case from the Supreme Court of Iowa. In a brief a lawyer admitted to plagiarism. Specifically, he copied 17 pages from an article without proper attribution. What is significant about this case is that it confirms that lawyers can face discipline for plagiarism.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Hat Tip: Legal Skills Prof Blog
Additional coverage on Legal Profession Prof Blog
The Importance Of Engagement Letters
Engagement and Closing Letters is an interesting article from the July 6, 2010 New York Law Journal. As the article explains, it is critical to draft appropriate engagement and closing letters which defined the scope of representation to avoid ethicial and disqualification issues. As the article states:
Thus, this case illustrates the value of using written engagement agreements for each new matter, even if the client is an established one. The case also implicitly recognizes the value of preparing non-engagement letters when dealing directly with unrepresented parties. An explicit communication of non-engagement is especially valuable when the law firm has formerly represented the now opposing, non-represented party. Any communications with non-represented parties should begin with a written statement that the lawyer is not representing that party, and recommending that the party retain his own attorney if he feels it is necessary.
The second case, from New Jersey, also illustrates the importance of crafting engagement letters to identify with clarity who are—and who are not—intended to be the clients in a newly forming attorney-client relationship. In Kurre v. Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith, Ravin, Davis, and Himmel, LLP, 2010 WL 2090092 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., April 16, 2010), two large shareholders for Labriola Motors, Elizabeth Labriola Kurre and Michael Labriola (plaintiffs), sued Greenbaum Rowe Smith Ravin Davis & Himmel and partners thereof (Greenbaum) for individual malpractice damages arising out of a failed transaction.
Labriola Motors, a Nissan franchise, experienced financial difficulties causing Nissan to urge the company to sell to avoid termination of the franchise. Labriola Motors retained Greenbaum to represent it in a proposed sale. The retainer letter specifically advised plaintiffs and the other shareholder that because their "interests and concerns as shareholders of the Company differ in connection with the proposed transaction," each "should retain independent legal counsel."
Further, by countersigning the letter plaintiffs acknowledged "that (i) this firm will represent only the Company in connection with the proposed transaction, and (ii) this firm has advised you of your right to obtain independent legal counsel" by signing the retainer agreement. In fact, plaintiffs did retain their own counsel.
The Appellate Division affirmed summary judgment for Greenbaum on the basis that plaintiffs had no standing to sue. First, the retainer agreement plaintiffs signed precluded any consideration that Greenbaum represented them personally. Indeed, plaintiffs actually had engaged their own counsel for the entire period in question.
Second, the court held that although lawyers can in some circumstances be sued by third parties who rely on their advice, here plaintiffs were a part of the corporate client and had no right to rely on anything said by Greenbaum except to make decisions as shareholders.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
June 10, 2010
Attorney Disciplined For Providing False Leave Report To Her Employer
Matter of Stewart, ____A.D.3d_____(1st Dep't. April 15, 2010), demonstrates that an attorney employee can be disciplined for misconduct at the workplace. Here, the attorney pleaded guilty to one count of petit larceny in violation of Penal Law § 155.25, a class A misdemeanor, in full satisfaction of all charges brought against her for providing a false document. Her purpose was to receive paid leave to which she would have otherwise not been entitled. On October 10, 2008, she was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge.The court suspended her from the practice of law for 6 months.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
May 31, 2010
Can The Attorney Client Privilege Be Asserted If The Putative Attorney Was Not Properly Admitted?
Here is a great law school hypo. Employer hires attorney. The attorney is later fired. Can his former employer assert attorney-client privilege? This is actually not a law school hypo. Rather, this issue is pending in the Southern District of New York. A New York Law Journal article about this case dated April 8, 2010 is available here. (registration required).
Law review commentary on this interesting topic would be most welcome.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
May 17, 2010
Cloud Computing and Lawyer Ethics
Cloud computing is in vogue today. Everyone, including me, loves it. You do not have to worry about files taking up space on your computer or have access to your files if your using another computer. The files are stored on a server. Getting Your Head in the Cloud is an interesting April 2010 ABA Journal article which raises the question of whether there are ethical issues for lawyers to store client data in "the cloud." As the article states:
The early indications from ethics authorities are that storing client data in the cloud does not violate ethics rules, as long as the lawyer took appropriate steps to safeguard the information from inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure.
Rule 1.6 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that, generally, a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent or the disclosure is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation. (Rule 1.6 is generally followed by the states.)
But the comments to Model Rule 1.6 provide some leeway in applying its mandate. Comment 16, for instance, states, “A lawyer must act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer’s supervision.” And Comment 17 states that a lawyer must take “reasonable precautions” to prevent information relating to the representation of a client from going to unintended recipients when it is being transmitted.
“If you purchase the technology and there’s a breach, you’re going to say, ‘I relied on the cloud provider,’ and the rules back you up,” says Lucian T. Pera, a partner at Adams and Reese in Memphis, Tenn., and president of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. “The rules say attorneys must act competently to safeguard information. It’s a reasonableness standard, and nothing has changed about the rules but how they apply in a changing world.”
Some recent ethics opinions reach a similar conclusion. The Arizona State Bar’s Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct, for instance, concluded in Opinion 09-04 (issued Dec. 9, 2009), that a law firm may use an online file storage and retrieval system that enables clients to access their files over the Internet as long as the firm takes reasonable precautions to safeguard the security and confidentiality of the client’s information.
Cloud computing is here to stay. I see it no different than lawyers storing client money in bank accounts. The lawyer has to rely on the bank not stealing the money or disclosing it to a third party. Law review commentary with respect to this important issue would be most welcome.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
May 08, 2010
New Metadata Ethics Opinion - Minnesota
On May 4, 2010, the ABA on its web site cited to an important Minnesota ethics opinion concerning metadata. The article describes this opinion as follows:
At the end of March, Minnesota's Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board approved a new ethics opinion addressing lawyers' ethical obligations regarding metadata. Opinion No. 22, available in PDF format on the LPRB's website, addresses the three primary metadata questions: what is a lawyer's duty when sending electronic documents; what is a lawyer's duty when receiving electronic documents; and what is a lawyer's duty upon discovering confidential or privileged metadata.
On the first and third questions, Minnesota echoed the view of the majority of jurisdictions that have taken up the issue: the sending lawyer "is ethically required to act competently to avoid improper disclosure of confidential and privileged information in metadata in electronic documents," and in the event that a lawyer "receives a document which the lawyer knows or reasonably should know inadvertently contains confidential or privileged metadata, the lawyer shall promptly notify the document's sender." (LPRB Op. 22)
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
May 02, 2010
Ethics Opinion Says Lawyers May Ghostwrite Court Papers and Not Disclose It
The New York County Lawyers Association recently issued an important opinion stating that lawyers can ghost write court papers to a limited degree for pro se litigants without disclosure. opinion
An ABA New Now Blog entry about this opinion is available here.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
February 06, 2010
Two Senior New York Attorneys Suspended From Practice For Failing To Pay Taxes
The New York Appellate Division, which regulates lawyers, recently suspended two lawyers for failing to pay income tax. Both were convicted of felonies and did not pay taxes for years. A New York Law Journal story about these unfortunate cases is available here. The First Department's rulings in Howley and Goldman can be found by clicking on the link.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
November 23, 2009
Is Smoking A Disablity Under The ADA As Amended??
The Ohio Employer's Law Blog raises the question whether smoking is a disability under the ADA as amended and concludes that it very well might be. That has significant public policy implications because the ADA may prevent employers from having a smoke free workplace and some local laws that require smoke free work places may conflict with the ADA. The author of this posting states:
Critically, an employee is now protected under the “regarded as” prong regardless of whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity, and regardless of whether the employer believes the individual was substantially limited in any major life activity. The coverage of this protection is extremely broad. The only exception to the “regarded as” prong is when the impairment is transitory (lasting or expected to last for six months or less) and minor. Examples of such uncovered impairments include a sprained wrist, a broken limb that is expected to heal, the common cold, and the seasonal flu. Employers do not have to make reasonable accommodations for “regarded as” disabilities, but are still prohibited from taking adverse actions because of them.
At the ABA Labor & Employment Conference last week, I had the opportunity to ask Peggy Mastroianni, EEOC Associate Legal Counsel and author of the ADAAA’s proposed regulations, if the EEOC has a position on the coverage of smoking under the ADA. Her answer was that there is no formal EEOC position. The EEOC’s silence notwithstanding, the “regarded as” prong of the new ADA is sufficiently broad to possibly encompass actions taken against employees pursuant to employer anti-smoking policies.
Frankly, I have not researched this issue and am not sure of the answer, but I would be surprised if smoking per se (as opposed to smoke related illnesses) are protected under the ADA. Law review commentary would be welcome with respect to this issue.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
May 15, 2009
Ethics and Negotiating: Truth or Consequences? is a very interesting April 21, 2009 New York Law Journal article.Download 125192-1 As its title implies, it concerns the ethical obligation of attorneys with respect to negotiations.The premise of the article is that attorneys cannot lie, but are able to present the facts in the light most favorable to their client. As the article states:
The New York Rules are clear that a lawyer may not make a false statement of fact in a negotiation. Thus, the attorney, if asked if the client has signed other, similar contracts that do not have full warranties, may not say that the client always obtains a full warranty if that is untrue. The lawyer may parry the question by saying that the client always seeks a full warranty. To the extent the issue is not really a fact, but an opinion, the lawyer has more room. How far the client is willing to go to compromise a particular issue falls into this category. That does not mean that an attorney may say that her client's board of directors only has authorized that $1 million be spent on a project, when the board actually has voted to spend up to $2 million.
While there may not be a need to reveal certain facts when negotiating, if a lawyer does so, the lawyer must be truthful. . . .
When a lawyer is dealing with a tribunal - a judge or arbitrator - he or she has a higher standard of candor than when negotiating with other third parties. For example, Rule 3.3 imposes numerous obligations on lawyers when handling a litigation or otherwise appearing before a tribunal. Rule 3.3(a)(1) provides that "[a] lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer." Rule 3.3(a)(3) prohibits a lawyer from "offer[ing] or us[ing] evidence that the lawyer knows to be false."
One of the most significant changes made in New York's ethics rules was the requirement that the lawyer representing a client before a court or arbitrator must take "reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal" if the lawyer knows of fraudulent conduct relating to the proceeding. See Rule 3.3(b). The fact that the disclosure would reveal privileged information or prejudice the client is no longer an excuse for not doing so. See Rule 3.3(c).
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
January 11, 2009
Employment Law Hard Ball
When Outside Counsel Represents Individuals (registration required) is an important Jan. 8, 2009 New York Law Journal article. It is primarily about Rivera v. Lutheran Medical Center, 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 6060, 866 NYS2d 520 (Sup. Ct., Kings County, 2008). That court held that an employers counsel could not approach a potential witness and offer representation free of charge because that constituted
improper solicitation of a client, and a breach of the Code of
Why did the employer offer free legal counsel?? Was it out of the goodness of its heart?? Of course not. It was to gain a litigation tactical advantage. The lawyers goal was to insulate the witness from informal contact with plaintiffs lawyer. As the article states:
The court accepted plaintiff's view that this conduct constituted a violation of DR 2-103(A)(1), which prohibits a lawyer from "engag[ing] in solicitation . . . by in-person or telephone contact, or by real-time or interactive computer-accessed communication unless the recipient is a close friend, relative, former client or current client."
The court concluded that the individuals "are not parties to the litigation in any sense and there is no chance that they will be subject to any liability. They were clearly solicited by [the firm] on behalf of LMC to gain a tactical advantage in this litigation by insulating them from any informal contact with plaintiff's counsel."
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
September 11, 2008
Ethics of Outsourcing
Ethics of Outsourcing is an interesting September 2008 New York State Bar Journal article. It is about the legal issue lawyers face if they out source work to now lawyers. The article describes the applicable issues as follows:
Outsourcing tasks to non-lawyers, whether in the
United States or abroad, raises a host of issues
regarding attorneys’ ethical obligations to their
clients. These issues have been fleshed out in advisory
opinions issued by the bar associations in various states.
Specifically, the New York City, Los Angeles County,
San Diego County, and Florida Bar Associations have
provided guidance to attorneys on the ethical considerations
that must be addressed prior to outsourcing work
Each of these opinions focuses primarily on the following
ethical mandates: (1) the duty to avoid aiding a
non-lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law; (2) the
duty to supervise; (3) the duty to preserve client confidences;
(4) the duty to check conflicts; (5) the duty to bill
appropriately; and (6) the duty to obtain client consent.
Although each of the opinions provides that under certain
circumstances an attorney may ethically outsource
legal support services overseas to a non-lawyer, ensuring
that the requisite ethical mandates are adhered to may
prove difficult in practice.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
May 29, 2008
Miller: Wrongful Incarceration and Attorney-Client Confidentiality
Colin Miller (John Marshall Law School) has posted "Ordeal by Innocence: Why There Should Be a Wrongful Incarceration/Execution Exception to Attorney-Client Privilege" on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). The article addresses the challenging questions about legal ethics and the attorney-client privilege raised by the Alton Logan case in Illinois, which was the subject of a 60 Minutes broadcast on March 9, 2008, and the Lee Wayne Hunt case in North Carolina. Professor Miller's article will appear in a future Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy.
Here is the abstract:
In 1982, Alton Logan was convicted of first degree murder based upon being the trigger man in a robbery gone wrong at a Chicagoland McDonald's. What the jury who convicted Logan did not hear was that another man, Andrew Wilson, confessed to the crime Logan allegedly committed. The problem was that Wilson confessed to his attorneys, public defenders Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, who confirmed with the relevant authorities that they were bound by the rules of professional responsibility not to disclose their client's confession. Coventry and Kunz did prepare an affidavit detailing Wilson's guilt and in fact planned to come forward if Logan were given the death penalty. Ironically, two holdouts on the jury seemingly spared Logan's life by voting against capital punishment, but in fact dealt him the same fate that would befall the affidavit, being locked up (Logan in a prison cell; the affidavit in a lock box). Pained by pangs of guilt, the public defenders convinced Wilson to allow them to reveal his guilt after his death, resulting in Logan's eventual release from prison twenty-six years after he entered.
How does such an injustice occur? Until recently, the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility prohibited an attorney from disclosing client information relating to a completed crime in which the attorney's services were not used, meaning that an attorney could not disclose that his client committed a crime for which another man was charged or convicted. And while the ABA amended Model Rule 1.6(b)(1) in 2002 to permit attorneys to reveal client information to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm, the few commentators to address the issue have curtly concluded that this exception would still not apply to the wrongful incarceration scenario presented by the preceding example. Conversely, Massachusetts Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.6(b)(1) permits attorneys to disclose client information to, inter alia, prevent the wrongful execution or incarceration of another. This article argues that the 25 states which have adopted some form of amended Model Rule 1.6(b)(1) can and should read a similar wrongful incarceration/execution exception into their existing Rules while the remaining 24 states (and the District of Columbia) which have not adopted some form of amended Model Rule 1.6(b)(1) should create such an exception and can do so while causing less violence to the rationales behind attorney-client confidentiality than existing exception.
Professor Miller's article is concise, readable and very informative on this issue. The article also raises an important question regarding what event triggers this particular exception to the privilege. The Massachusetts wrongful incarceration exception described by Professor Miller permits a lawyer "to reveal confidential information in the specific situation where such information discloses that an innocent person has been convicted of a crime and has been sentenced to imprisonment or execution." Mass. Rule of Prof'l Conduct R. 1.6(b)(1) cmt. 9A. This comment suggests a disclosure would not be authorized until after the trial, when the defendant has been convicted and incarcerated. Such a disclosure would likely have to be made by motion for new trial or on post-conviction writ.
By contrast, Model Rule 1.6(b)(1) provides that, "[a] lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary...to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm." p. 3. Professor Miller proposes that states without a wrongful incarceration exception in the ethics rules "construe wrongful incarceration as a reasonably certain bodily injury." p.5. Since the Model Rule allows the disclosure to be made to prevent substantial bodily harm, here defined as wrongful incarceration, Professor Miller's proposal to equate wrongful incarceration with substantial bodily harm seems to allow the disclosure to be made during the trial, or even before trial, where incarceration exists as a sentencing option.
In most jurisdictions, the burden of proof at trial differs from the burden in a post-conviction proceeding. To obtain an acquittal, a defendant bears no burden of proof and the state must prove each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant on a post-conviction writ, however, typically bears a heavy burden. In Texas for example, a defendant seeking to overturn a conviction based upon newly discovered evidence indicating actual innocence must show "that the newly discovered evidence unquestionably establishes his or her innocence." To grant relief, "reviewing court must believe that no rational juror would have convicted the applicant in light of the newly discovered evidence." Ex parte Thompson, 153 S.W.3d 416, 417 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005) (orig proceeding). While different states may place different burdens on defendants seeking post-conviction relief on actual innocence grounds, the burden will necessarily be greater than the defendant's burden at trial. When the exception is triggered, therefore, is important to know.
Attorney-client privilege exceptions require that the societal interest in promoting full and uninhibited communication between attorney and client be balanced against the interest promoted by the exception. The need for disclosure is greater after conviction and incarceration and after all appeals have been exhausted than the need would be during pre-trial investigation or during trial when neither conviction nor incarceration are certain and when other facts presented may result in acquittal. This temporal consideration, likely beyond the scope of Professor Miller's Colloquy article (and certainly so for this post), deserves further examination.
Congratulations to Professor Miller on a thought provoking article. I look forward to its appearance in the Colloquy.
May 28, 2008
More Trouble For School District Lawyers Who Were Classified As Employees Of School Districts
Learning Experiences is an interesting article from June 2008 ABA Journal about the New York School lawyers who were placed on the payroll of several school districts even though they were not employed by those school districts. As the article points out, the NYS Attorney General is investigating this incident as is the NYS Comptroller.
This article adds another wringle. The article postulates that the attorneys may have also violated ethical rules if they are found to have engaged in illegal conduct or moral turnpitude. As the article states:
But experts on professional conduct issues caution against a rush to judgment in situations like the investigation in New York. They note there is nothing inherently improper about a private lawyer taking on a salaried job with a government entity while keeping his or her position in a law firm. It all depends on how and why it was done.
“There’s no prohibition against multiple hats,” says Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law who chairs the Joint Committee on Lawyer Regulation of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility. “The real question is whether there’s value received and whether the lawyer is truly doing the work he’s being paid for.”
But the reason for the agreement also must be considered, Gillers says. “Did the school board negotiate a good deal for itself, or was this simply a back door way to give a lawyer a benefit to which he was not entitled as a reward or a private act of generosity?” asks Gillers. “It’s a distinction that makes a difference.”
A separation of duties within a firm to avoid double billing can raise questions if it potentially favors one lawyer at the firm, says Susan Brotman, a lawyer in New York City who is president of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. In the school district context, for instance, it can appear to be “a ruse through which that person enjoys rights under the New York state retirement system that he or she would not be eligible for as a private contractor,” Brotman says.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein