Monday, February 19, 2007

An Excess of Zeal

An attorney who let his personal friendship with his lawyer-client interfere with his professional judgment was reprimanded by the Supreme Court of South Carolina. The attorney submitted a proposed settlement agreement that sought a false concession that his client had not acted as counsel to two non-lawyer business partners in the deal that had led to the dispute. When the settlement fell through, he filed a civil RICO action against opposing counsel and the opposing clients. The court found that the settlement proposal was unethical but did not involve an intentional misrepresentation; the RICO action violated Rule 3.1 because the attorney filed suit without investigation into the factual and legal basis for the liability claims.

Note: if at all possible, do not represent yourself in a disciplinary oral argument before your state's high court. The court here noted: "We accept the Panel's findings here, but not without noting that based on Respondent's conduct and statements at oral argument before the Court, we have grave reservations whether Respondent's aggressiveness in the ... litigation was an isolated event, or whether Respondent approaches the practice of law in general from a gladiatorial perspective. Respondent would be well advised to reflect on his attitude and demeanor." (Mike Frisch)

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