Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Act Of Betrayal

The D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility has recommended the reciprocal discipline of court admonishment of an attorney who filed a motion to withdraw from representing an applicant for bar admission. The motion stated: "[the sanctioned attorney] did not believe that [his client] had the character and fitness to serve as a bar member and that [he] had not paid his attorney's fees."

The Florida court found that the lawyer had violated his duty of confidentiality, engaged in a conflict of interest and used an improper method to seek his desired withdrawal. Admonishment seems a tad light for such a fundamental ethics breach.

I mention a similar D.C. case in a comment to this post. The case is linked here.  (Mike Frisch)


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Admonishment for a betrayal of trust? Maybe the D.C. Board of Professional Responsibility empathized with the plight of the lawyer who wasn't paid. If so, self-regulation and self-interest just moved a bit closer.

The admonished lawyer should have separated his client's failure to pay from the character and fitness issue. Sue for the fee.

As for the character and fitness issue, if there were real grounds to object to the client's admission to the Bar, one would want to take Rule 8.1 into account.

Posted by: W.R. Chambers | Nov 6, 2007 6:36:53 PM

Note that the D.C. action is reciprocal, where there is a strong presumption favoring identical discipline. Having said that, D.C. had a similar case (In re Gonzalez) where the court directed Bar Counsel to informally admonish the lawyer.

Posted by: Mike Frisch | Nov 6, 2007 6:42:36 PM

Thanks for pointing out that there is a presumption in reciprocal discipline cases that discipline be identical.

I wonder if there is any precedential value in discipline cases. More specifically, the next time a Florida lawyer intentionally discloses information relating to representation in violation of the RPC, will she be able to cite this case as authority for the proposition that violating 1.6 is not so terribly important after all?

Posted by: W.R. Chambers | Nov 7, 2007 9:08:36 AM

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