October 11, 2007
An Offer You Can Refuse
Here's a decision from an Illinois hearing board that paints a picture worthy of discussion in a law school course in professional responsibility. The lawyer was charged with misconduct in three cases. Two were what disciplinary prosecutors call "garden variety" misconduct. The third was anything but. The lawyer represented the client in a custody matter. The father was awarded sole custody and the client was ordered to transfer physical custody of the child by a date certain. The attorney was involved in legal efforts to overturn the order.
The lawyer advised the client to leave the state and change the identities of her and her child. The lawyer found a local address for the client to live and falsely denied to the police knowledge of the
client 's location. The client, who the lawyer had instructed to lie to authorities, was uncomfortable with the advice. She went to the police and told the truth. When the client advised the lawyer what she had done, the lawyer said:"Okay, just play dumb to the judges because you're not a good liar. I'll do it for you."
What is going on here? Unfortunately, the accused attorney defaulted, so there is no indication of the motivation. The hearing panel notes that the advice severely damaged the client, acknowledged that the accused had no prior disciplinary record, and noted that the failure to respond to the charges displayed a "callous disregard" for the bar discipline process. (Mike Frisch)
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