Saturday, April 19, 2014

Practice Pointer: Read The Court Papers

A Massachusetts attorney has been reprimanded for misconduct in the course of representing an elderly client.

According to a summary of the case

An elderly client hired the respondent to represent her in a divorce action filed by her husband, who was also elderly. The couple had various marital assets including a home, where the client continued to live after the husband moved into a nursing home. The client informed the respondent that she did not want to divorce her husband and wanted to continue to live in the couple’s home. Both parties were represented by counsel.

During the divorce proceedings, the client became incapable of making adequately considered decisions about her medical care, finances and the divorce. Doctors diagnosed the client as suffering from Alzheimer’s Dementia, among other impairments, and recommended that the client not live alone. The client had a sister who was willing to become responsiblefor her sister’s affairs includingthe resolution of her divorce, and agreed to serve as the client’s guardian.

The respondent prepared petitions for a general guardianship and a temporary guardianship of the client. In both petitions, the respondent nominated the client’s sister to serve as the client’s guardian. The respondent presented both petitions to the court. The court appointed another lawyer to act as a guardian ad litem to represent the client’s interest in the petition for the general guardianship and issued a citation with an order of service.

The court did not docket or act upon the petition for temporary guardianship. The respondent failed to serve the client with the petitions.

The respondent failed to review the papers he received from the court to determine whether the temporary guardianship had been granted, and incorrectly assumed that it had. The respondent mistakenly believed that the client’s sister had been appointed as the client’s temporary guardian. He negligently misrepresented to opposing counsel and the court that the sister had authority to act on behalf of the client in the divorce.

The parties entered into a separation agreement that provided, among other things, for the sale of the couple’s marital home with the proceeds to be divided in favor of the wife. The respondent did not inform the guardian ad litem of the agreement. The sister executed the agreement on behalf of the client as the client’s temporary guardian. The court accepted the parties’ agreement and entered it as an order in the judgment of divorce.

Subsequent to the entry of the court’s judgment, a clerk discovered that the sister was in fact not the client’s temporary guardian. The court vacated the judgment. While the divorce was again pending, the client regained her faculties, and was able to make decisions in her divorce. The parties entered into a new separation agreement that provided, among other things, for the client to buy the husband’s share of the marital home with other marital assets. The court accepted the parties’ agreement and entered it as an order in its judgment of divorce. The client was able to return to her home.

Among the rule violations was a breach of Rule 1.14 (representation of client under disability. (Mike Frisch)

April 19, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Interim Suspension For Criminal Conviction

The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the interim suspension of a attorney convicted of a felony offense.

NBCi4.com had the story of the arrest

A local attorney was arrested after he allegedly tried to break into his ex-girlfriend's home and got into a fight Monday night.

According to 911 calls, a woman called authorities Monday night, claiming that someone broke into her home in the 2300 block of Bush Blvd. in Reynoldsburg.

Monday night, neighbors said they heard screams from the home, and called 911.

"I saw the guy literally just stop three times on the guy's face," said neighbor Cody Wolfsen. "Apparently it all started in the house. I could only imagine what a kid had to go through to see that happen because it was intense."

The victim told police that her 2-year-old daughter was upstairs during the incident.

Upon arrival, police arrested Gerald Salters, who is an attorney, according to the Columbus Bar Association.

Salters was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Licking County on charges of driving under the influence, aggravated burglary, and endangering children.

A report from the same source has additional details. (Mike Frisch)

April 19, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Friend On The Bench

A state district court judge who improperly interfered with a pending matter involving a friend has been publicly reprimanded  hy the Nebraska Supreme Court.

...here is essentially no dispute that [Judge] Schatz used his judicial authority to order the release of Davlin without Davlin’s paying a bond. The record shows that Schatz’ actions were not in accord with how bonds were normally set in felony drunk driving cases. Specifically, the record shows that without Schatz’ intervention, Davlin would have remained in jail until his arraignment in county court, when presumably either he would have been released on his own recognizance or a monetary bond would have been set. In the latter and more probable circumstance, Davlin would have been held in jail until he posted bond.

While the court did not condone the conduct, it concluded that a number a mitigating circumstances justified a reprimand. (Mike Frisch)

April 19, 2014 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Partner Responsible For Ethics Violations

A name partner in a law firm was suspended for a year and until further order by the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department for misconduct in the operation of the firm's escrow account.

The respondent and his spouse...were the named partners in the law firm. They were also authorized signatories for the law firm's attorney escrow account, maintained at HSBC Bank and identified as a "Mortgage Closing Account." Between February 2, 2008 and August 28, 2008, eight disbursements from the Mortgage Closing Account created or increased a negative balance of funds therein.

The sanctioned partner's role in the problem

In determining an appropriate measure of discipline to impose, we are mindful that the respondent was no longer an active participant in the law firm at the time of the underlying events, and was not directly involved in the subject defalcations. However, the respondent remained a named partner of the law firm, and an authorized signatory for the law firm's Mortgage Closing Account, with attendant fiduciary obligations. Despite significant losses incurred by one or more of the clients of the law firm, there has been no effort on the part of the respondent to make restitution to those clients. The respondent's prior disciplinary history consists of three Letters of Caution.

The spouse resigned from practice and went to prison. (Mike Frisch)

April 17, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Former U.S. Attorney Reprimanded

The former United States Attorney for the District of Arizona has agreed to a reprimand by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge.

The misconduct involved a leak in connection with the investigation into Fast & Furious.

The reprimand notes that the attorney acted "under tremendous strain as [his office] dealt with an unprecedented series of national issues." He was motivated by a sense that his office was not being fairly portrayed in the media and not adequately defended by the Department of Justice. He had no pecuniary motive. (Mike Frisch)

April 16, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Timely Issue Draws Editorial Comment

An editorial in today's New York Times

In 2009, a lawyer in New York helped his client settle a claim for $30,000. The lawyer then had the check issued in his own name, deposited it into his own account and used all of the funds for himself. The client demanded his money to no avail.

It took more than three years before the lawyer was disbarred for stealing a client’s funds. During all that time, the lawyer, who already had a history of serious disciplinary infractions, kept working.

This is a disturbingly common story in New York, which has more lawyers than any other state. Punishments for those who violate obligations to a client — if not the law — are slow, inconsistently levied and often hidden from the public.

Professional discipline is essential to the integrity of any legal system. Unfortunately in New York, the process for dealing with lawyer misconduct is “deficient in design and operation,” writes Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law in an article to be published next month in N.Y.U.’s Journal of Legislation and Public Policy.

Professor Gillers examined attorney-discipline cases going back to 1982 and all 577 court opinions imposing sanctions issued over the past six years. In addition to the many instances of “unacceptable” delay in the official response to complaints about lawyers, he documents the great disparity in the way similar violations are handled by courts in different parts of the state.

For example, a lawyer who filed false documents, made false statements and improperly notarized a client’s signature was suspended for two and a half years by the appeals court in Manhattan. But, in Brooklyn, comparable actions by a different lawyer resulted only in a formal rebuke but not a suspension. In upstate New York, appellate courts rarely explain the reasons for their decision to sanction or not sanction, and, when they do, they often don’t follow their own earlier rulings.

Perhaps most troubling is the overall lack of transparency that pervades the system. Unlike 40 other states, New York does not inform the public of pending charges against lawyers. It is also unnecessarily difficult to learn when a lawyer has been officially sanctioned, even though sanctions — which can include censure, suspension or disbarment — are part of the public record.

At the very least, New York, which has 166,000 lawyers, should adopt uniform standards for disciplining lawyers. The American Bar Association set clear and sensible standards in 1986, but some states have successfully established their own.

In California, for example, almost all disciplinary cases are handled by a State Bar Court that is staffed with full-time judges who issue thorough rulings. Professor Gillers also recommends that every lawyer’s disciplinary history be made easily available online, and that law firms tell potential clients how to access the information.

Not everyone will be eager to upset the status quo, including the appellate judges who would like to maintain their control over the process, and the lawyers who benefit from the leniency of local courts. But it must change if New Yorkers are to have confidence in the lawyers who represent them.

The issues raised here deserve a great deal more public scrutiny than has heretofore been brought to bear.

Let's hope this helps. (Mike Frisch)

April 16, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

F Bombs As Ethics Violations

The North Carolina State Bar has filed ethics charges against an attorney who is characterized as an organizer and member of the "Occupy Asheville" movement.

The allegations relate to the attorney's visit to a detention facility after arrest warrants had been issued for other members of the movement.

The attorney allegedly identified herself as an attorney and asked a magistrate, "[w]hat the hell is going on around here" with the arrest warrants.

The magistrate asked her to "watch [her] language."

The attorney sought a list of persons named in the warrants. Her request was denied.

Then, it is alleged, the attorney asked the magistrate, "what the fuck is going on around here," expressed the view that "this is a bunch of bullshit," "Oh yeah, I said fuck," "This is fucking ridiculous," and "This is fucking crazy."

The charge: undignified or discourteous behavior that is degrading to a tribunal. (Mike Frisch)

April 16, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Judging Judges In New York

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has released its annual report.

This press release summarizes the year in judging judges

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has released its 2014 Annual Report, covering the Commission’s activities in 2013. The Commissionreports having received 1,770 complaints, conducting 654 preliminary inquiries and investigations, and issuing 17 public decisions in 2013. In addition, 10 judges resigned from office while complaints against them were pending.

The bottom line

17 public decisions were rendered:

   2 Removals from office

5 Public Censures

5 Public Admonitions

5 Public Stipulations in which judges resigned and agreed to never again hold judicial office

5 other judges resigned at a point before the proceedings against them became public.

A detailed, annual report from a body regulating lawyer and judicial discipline promotes transparency and is a necessary part of any reputable regulatory regime.

The District of Columbia disciplinary system has never issued such a publicly-available report. (Mike Frisch)

April 16, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process, Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dru Stevenson on being Against Confidentiality

Two points to make about confidentiality, just as all us ethics profs are about to (spoiler alert) examine on it. One is that I note that there is an interesting article in the current Litigation magazine (the ABA's journal by the Section on Litgation) on whether confidentiality and privilege survive death. It's not yet posted on their website, so look for it in print or anticipate it online. It notes that the successor law firm to Lizzie Borden's counsel circa 1892 is still safeguarding its (really, her) records. I foresee a poem about the privilege here, but what rhymes with "privilege"? One point six does not quite rhyme with ax.

The more accessible point is that Drury D. Stevenson (South Texas, Law) has posted to SSRN an article that, to me, follows in the tradition of the late Fred Zacahrias. Dru's title is Against Confidentiality and his abstract is:

Confidentiality rules form an important part of the ethical codes for lawyers, as a modern, expansive extension of the traditional attorney-client privilege doctrine. The legal academy, judiciary, and practitioners generally agree on the conventional wisdom that strict confidentiality rules are necessary to foster client-lawyer communication, thereby providing lawyers with information they need for effective representation. Yet this premise is demonstrably false – clients withhold information or lie to their lawyers despite the confidentiality rules, and the rules are mostly redundant with other ethical rules, evidentiary doctrines, and effective market mechanisms for protecting client privacy interests. At the same time, the confidentiality rules impose significant social costs – direct externalities, lemons effects, and even serious harm to third parties.

This Article argues that the lawyer confidentiality rules are ripe for repeal, revision, or rejection in the form of civil disobedience in certain cases. Using analytical tools from economics, including the Coase Theorem, this Article goes beyond previous criticisms of the rules to provide an extensive analysis of the social costs – and illusory benefits – of the ethical rules that compel lawyers to conceal client secrets. The rules undermine public trust in the legal system, and overall transparency and cooperation in society. In extreme instances, the rules facilitate wrongful convictions of innocent third parties and other serious harms. In relation to the other ethical rules, the confidentiality rules are generally in tension with, or redundant of, other rules designed to protect clients and third parties. The Article concludes with specific normative proposals for revising the rules, or challenging the existing rules as a way to force reforms.

[Alan Childress]

April 15, 2014 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession, Privilege | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecution May Proceed

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has denied a writ of prohibition seeking to stay prosecution by the New York City District Attorney

In this action for a writ of prohibition directing the DA to stay the prosecution of petitioners, Brazilian citizens (the former mayor of S o Paolo and his son) who have been indicted in New York for crimes relating to the theft of more than $11 million in Brazilian public funds that were allegedly transferred to petitioners' account in a bank located in New York, the petition was properly denied. The extraordinary remedy of prohibition is not available to petitioners, who assert that the underlying criminal action violates their statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial and their right to due process, or, in the alternative, that the indictment should be dismissed either in furtherance of justice pursuant to CPL 210.40(1) or under principles of international comity. These claims allege errors of law for which petitioners have adequate alternative remedies, including filing pretrial motions in the underlying criminal action and challenging any conviction on appeal (Matter of Veloz v Rothwax, 65 NY2d 902, 904 [1985]; Matter of Lopez v Justices of Supreme Ct. of N.Y. County, 36 NY2d 949 [1975]; Matter of Neal v White, 46 AD3d 156, 159-160 [1st Dept 2007]). That petitioners would have to voluntarily leave their home country to appear for arraignment since Brazil will not extradite its own citizens before availing themselves of such remedies does not render them inadequate (see Matter of Rush v Mordue, 68 NY2d 348, 354 [1986]["the ordeal of a criminal trial and the possibility of conviction, by themselves, are insufficiently harmful to warrant use of the writ"). Moreover, petitioners have failed to meet their burden of demonstrating a "clear legal right" to any of the relief sought (Matter of Haggerty v Himelein, 89 NY2d 431, 435 [1997]).

(Mike Frisch)

April 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"An Astonishing Amount Of Money"

The Illinois Review Board agreed with a Hearing Board's sanction proposal and has recommended disbarment of an attorney

The Respondent deliberately took, for personal  purposes, over $600,000 from funds he was obligated to hold for the benefit of  others. The Hearing Board found that Respondent intentionally and dishonestly  converted funds from a trust he was representing as an attorney; engaged in a  conflict of interest by representing the trust when the representation  conflicted with his own interests and with the interests of another client;  dishonestly converted funds from another client to repay the trust; and  converted funds he was holding in connection with two unrelated real estate  transactions. Given the seriousness of the misconduct, the Hearing Board  recommended that Respondent be disbarred from the practice of law. Respondent  appeals and argues that his conduct warrants a suspension rather than  disbarment. We disagree. The record clearly demonstrates that Respondent should  be disbarred.

The attorney had sought a lesser sanction but

Respondent's theft of the funds in the two real  estate transactions alone, conduct the Respondent does not dispute, warrants  disbarment. However, when we consider the totality of the misconduct in this  case, we are left with the firm conviction that the severest of sanctions is  warranted. Respondent converted money in 2001 and 2002, and again in 2010. In  total, he misappropriated an astonishing amount of money--more than $600,000. He  deprived the beneficiaries of the trusts of money that was rightfully theirs. As  found by the Hearing Board, Respondent took the Sanial Trust money in order to  make a quick payment to attempt to cover up his conversion of the Zgonina Trust  funds. He engaged in numerous instances of dishonesty in attempts to cover up  his misconduct.

While Respondent offered some evidence in  mitigation, the evidence does not outweigh the serious misconduct in this  matter. Respondent has not been previously disciplined. He presented character  testimony, including the testimony of two judges, who testified as to his  reputation for honesty. He served on the board of Weber High School for a time  and on the board of Gordon Tech High School from 1998 through 2013. He offered  little explanation, however, as to why he took the money from the trusts or from  the funds he agreed to hold and protect in the real estate transactions. In  addition, he expressed little remorse and had not fully made restitution as of  the date of the hearing.

Given the magnitude of the misconduct in this  matter, we agree with the Hearing Board's assessment of the sanction and we also  recommend to the Court that Respondent be disbarred.

(Mike Frisch)

April 15, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What Is A Vulnerable Client?

The Kansas Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for six months for misconduct in handling a guardianship matter.

The court agreed with the attorney on several points raised on appeal, finding he had not failed to return an unearned fee and had not taken advantage of a "vulnerable" client

...it would appear that inexperience with legal matters alone is not sufficient for a vulnerability finding because nearly every client fits within this category—much like every client relies on counsel to ensure that his or her claim will not be barred by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, we conclude that the evidence presented at the hearing does not support a finding that D.H. was a vulnerable client. A minority of the court, however, would find the panel's vulnerability determination was supported by the evidence in the record.

The court rejected the attorney's request for censure rather than suspension. A minority of the court would impose a shorter period of suspension

The respondent also argues that he has corrected the problems in his practice and his circumstances have changed, which ensure that he will not commit similar transgressions in the future. Regardless of what the respondent's current situation might be, based on the fact that the respondent neglected to even take minuscule measures to protect D.H.'s rights ( e.g., calling her on the phone and recommending that she retain a new attorney) and instead chose to ignore her case while addressing his own financial and personal issues, we conclude that a 6-month suspension is an appropriate sanction for the respondent's misconduct. A minority of the court, however, would impose a shorter term of suspension.

(Mike Frisch)

April 15, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supension For Drug Conviction

The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered an interim suspension of an attorney as a result of a felony conviction.

K99.3 WKVI FM reported on an arrest of the attorney

A Grovertown man and his passenger were arrested Thursday morning after the Starke County Sheriff’s Department attempted to serve an arrest warrant at his home.

Officers arrived at Jeffrey Knoebel’s home on Francis Street and found that he left the residence.  They located his van traveling east on U.S. 30 and followed it to the Grovertown Truck Stop.  Knoebel reportedly fled into the truck stop and ran out the back into the woods.  Indiana State Police officers and an Indiana Emergency Response Team conducted a K9 track on Knoebel and found him hiding by a tree.

The female passenger in the vehicle, [attorney] Tenniel Selner, was detained while officers looked for Knoebel.  They were both taken to the Starke County Jail.

Knoebel has preliminary charges of Resisting Law Enforcement, Possession of Methamphetamines and Maintaining a Common Nuisance.  Selner has a preliminary charge of Assisting a Criminal.

And Pharos-Tribune had this story about an arrest in May 2013

Two Fulton County residents and a fugitive from South Bend were arrested Wednesday night on drug charges.

After a call about a domestic situation at J.J. Richard Dairy Farm in Fulton County, according to police reports, officers obtained a search warrant and found methamphetamine, marijuana and a fugitive hiding in the home. Charla Richard, 37, and John Wise, 45, of rural Rochester, were both arrested along with Tenneil Selner, 32, of South Bend.

The Indiana State Police and the Fulton County Sheriff Department were on scene for the arrests.

Police were called to the dairy farm in the 2000 block of West 500 North in Fulton County after Richard’s husband reported she had cut the tires and broke the windows of a pickup truck and fired a pellet gun.

While searching the home, police said they found methamphetamine, marijuana and Selner inside the home, according to a press release.

After obtaining a second search warrant, the release also states, police found a methamphetamine lab, chemical precursors for manufacturing methamphetamine, hypodermic needles and two pellet guns. Two children were also in the residence and they were later turned over to relatives.

Richard and Wise, who also lived at the residence, were arrested on felony charges of possession of methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance, manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of drug precursors, and possession of a police scanner during the commission of a felony.

Selner was arrested on two federal arrest warrants and faces local felony charges for possession of methamphetamine and possession of hypodermic needles.

The Indiana State Police Peru Post Meth Enforcement Team collected evidence and cleaned up the methamphetamine lab.

All three individuals remained in the Fulton County Jail as of Thursday afternoon on $40,000 surety bonds.

The attorney entered a guilty plea to distribution of pseudoephedrine in November 2013. (Mike Frisch)

April 15, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Unanswered Questions Prevent Reinstatement Of Former Judge

A reinstatement petition filed on behalf of a judge who was removed from office and disbarred in Michigan failed to persuade the California State Bar Court Review Department, which has denied the request.

The basis for disbarment

Jenkins was licensed to practice law in Michigan in 1979. In 1983, at the age of 30, he was appointed as a judge of the District Court in Detroit. After his appointment, he engaged in a course of misconduct that included accepting bribes to dismiss traffic citations; misstating his address to reduce his insurance premium; soliciting an individual to commit perjury in a federal investigation of Jenkins’ misconduct; engaging in improper ex parte communications with parties and counsel regarding matters before him; improperly accepting gifts and favors from litigants and counsel who appeared before him; and signing a writ of habeas corpus to release an individual whom he knew personally without adequate information to justify the release.

In 1988, Jenkins was indicted in federal court for bribery, racketeering, mail fraud, extortion, and conspiracy, but he was ultimately acquitted.

The acquittal did not prevent his removal and disbarment.

The present issue

 The hearing judge below denied Jenkins’ petition, having concluded that he failed to establish his rehabilitation from his past misconduct or that he presently possesses the necessary moral qualifications for reinstatement. The judge reached this conclusion based on Jenkins’ recent misconduct, including, inter alia, his failure to disclose material information in his reinstatement petition and in divorce papers he filed in the superior court, his affirmative misrepresentations in two apartment rental applications, and his recent conviction for reckless driving involving alcohol...

 When we last considered Jenkins’ petition for reinstatement, we found that the record raised too many unanswered questions about his understanding of his professional and ethical obligations. The present record raises many of the same questions, which unfortunately remain unanswered. We thus conclude that Jenkins still has not established the requisite rehabilitation and moral fitness to resume the practice of law.

(Mike Frisch) 

April 14, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Sandusky Attorney Disbarred

The web page of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board reports that former Jerry Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger's consent to disbarment was accepted last Friday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

WGALNews8 reported last month

As News 8 reported over the weekend, Karl Rominger is under investigation for mishandling client money. It's still unknown how much money or how many clients this may involve. This week, Rominger voluntarily took steps to surrender his law license. 

The bar association says there's a fund already in place to compensate clients in this or similar cases. The fund is supported by every Pennsylvania attorney's yearly dues.

Clients who attorneys stole from them can makeup their losses but only if they file a claim.

The bar association is also offering to help Rominger's clients find new attorneys and to let them know how to get their personal files back from Rominger's offices.

Over the weekend Rominger released an audio statement online, acknowledging the investigation against him, saying in part: "I will work hard to right the people I have wronged."

Until the state Supreme Court approves his law license forefeiture, Rominger is allowed to work, but his Carlisle offices were closed Thursday afternoon.

(Mike Frisch)

April 14, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Conflict Of interest

The Arizona Presiding Disciplinary Judge has imposed a 30-day suspension followed by probation of an attorney who had engaged in a rather obvious conflict of interest -- representing the biological parents and the prospective adopting parents in a adoption proceeding.

The child's paternal great aunt had been the child's caregiver since infancy and also was the apppinted guardian.  She had sought to adopt the child.

The attorney sought to have the great aunt removed as guardian and have another couple (related to the mother) adopt the child.

The court awarded sanctions against the attorney to the great aunt. The award was discharged in the attorney's bankruptcy. The attorney must pay the award as part of the disciplinary sanctions. (Mike Frisch)

April 14, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"We Do Not Know" And Do Not Suspend

The New Jersey Supreme Court has censured an attorney who threatened criminal charges to obtain advantage in a domestic proceeding.

The Disciplinary Review Board found that

...the quoted portions of respondent’s August 4, 2012 letter and August 14, 2012 email contain unequivocal threats of presenting criminal charges against Taylor to obtain an improper advantage in a civil matter, that is, the "Proposed Settlement," violations of RPC 3.4(g). The only issue left for determination is the suitable degree of discipline for respondent’s conduct.

The attorney's position was no position at all

Because this is a default, we are without the benefit of respondent’s frame of mind, when he wrote the letter and the email. Thus, there is no context to the letter and email and no indication of contrition or remorse on respondent’s part. It is possible, though, that what appears to have been a contentious post-judgment matrimonial matter colored respondent’s judgment. We do not know.

While I agree that an unethically threatening letter to a pro se litigant may not require a a suspension, ignoring the disciplinary process might tip the balance. (Mike Frisch)

April 14, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Law Tiger Gently Declawed

The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered a private (but published) reprimand of an attorney who had practiced for 41 years without discipline.

The attorney had entered into a franchising agreement for the use of the trademark of "Law Tigers" from a non-profit Arizona corportation, the American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers, Inc. (the "AAMIL").

Calls to the AAMIL hotline were referred to the attorney if they involved matters in his geographical area.

The attorney's own website complied with Indiana advertising rules; the AAMIL's website (which provided referrals to the attorney) did not:

The Law Tigers website contained examples of previous results obtained by "Law Tigers Motorcycle Accident Lawyers," boasting "Exceptional Results: Settlements and Verdicts." A tab led to "Client Testimonials" from persons who claim to have utilized Law Tigers in seeking advice and/or representation regarding a motorcycle-related legal matter. Such testimonials included: "Law Tigers changed my life in a big way and my family received our fair share of justice." "Law Tigers went above and beyond! The settlement was more than expected!" "The legal services were fast and painless and the best experience I have ever had with lawyers and lawsuits." Although none of the settlements, verdicts, or testimonials related to Respondent, the website did not disclose that they did not relate to Respondent.

Respondent also maintained a separate website for his law firm, which could be accessed through a link from the Law Tigers website. The firm website included a statement that the firm was not permitted to include information about previous results from settlements and verdicts. However, a visitor to the Law Tigers website was not required to access the link to the firm website to be put in contact with Respondent and his firm.

Respondent distributed AAMIL-produced informational materials within his territory, including "promotional backers." The promotional backers contained a toll-free telephone number for the Law Tigers service, the Law Tigers website address, and the names of Respondent and his firm. However, the promotional backers did not contain Respondent's address.

The court here held the attorney responsibile for the AAMIL website content, which provided results of prior cases and endorsements.

Update: Carolyn Elefant has a thoughtful post on this opinion. (Mike Frisch)

April 13, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 11, 2014

New release in ebooks of classic collection on the sociology of the professions

Most of the ebooks and print books produced by the book project I started in 2010, called Quid Pro Books, are on law, history or political science, and are not really the topic of this blog. But one we released this week goes to its core. It is a republication, in Kindle, Google Play, andThe Sociology of the Professions cover interior Q Nook formats (and next week in Apple iTunes; this summer in paperback), of the renowned collection edited by Robert Dingwall and Philip S.C. Lewis, The Sociology of the Professions: Lawyers, Doctors and Others. The new edition adds a substantive 2014 Foreword by Sida Liu of the University of Wisconsin. Chapters are by Dingwall, Lewis, Paul Atkinson, Maureen Cain, John Eekelaar, Eliot Freidson, Marc Galanter, Gordon Horobin, Malcolm Johnson, Geoff Mungham, Topsy Murray, Alan Paterson, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, P.M. Strong, and Philip Thomas. A full description is found at any of the links above.

We also just released a courtroom thriller by University of Houston law prof David Crump, The Target Defendant. Its ebooks are out already, and the paperback will follow next Target Defendant cover Apple interiorweek. And last month we published a mystery novel by Stanford law prof Lawrence Friedman, called Who Killed Maggie Swift? Here is an interview of Professor Friedman in Palo Alto Weekly in which he discusses mystery writing and his other books with this publishing project ... and shouts out to me!  [Alan Childress]

April 11, 2014 in Childress, Comparative Professions, Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pepperdine Law announces Parris Professionalism Institute

Thomas Inkel informed us today of an impressive project at Pepperdine Law School:

Pepperdine University School of Law is pleased to announce the creation of the Parris Professionalism Institute, dedicated to the professional development of first-year law students at Pepperdine. The institute was established by a million-dollar gift to the School of Law. First-year law students from the Class of 2017 will be the first to experience the new program, beginning with a redesigned orientation process this fall. The full announcement may be found on our website at  http://law.pepperdine.edu/news-events/news/2014/04/parrisinstitute.htm.

Thanks, Tom. [Alan Childress]

April 11, 2014 in Teaching & Curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)