Monday, November 5, 2007

Threats Draw A Reprimand

The D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility has recommended reciprocal discipline in a case from Florida. The Florida Supreme Court had publicly reprimanded the lawyer and placed him on probation for one year. The lawyer was involved in a dispute in his capacity as corporate officer and attorney for Integrity Auto. He claimed that an independent contractor had defrauded his company. During settlement negotiations, he threatened to inform law enforcement of his contentions if restitution was not forthcoming. He also threatened to report opposing counsel to the state bar if he continued to represent his client. He did contact law enforcement; he did not contact the bar because the lawyer had ceased to represent his client.

There are no cases in D.C. where discipline has been imposed for threatening criminal or disciplinary charges "solely to obtain advantage in a civil matter." My sense is that this is because it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove "sole" motivation by clear and convincing evidence. The pertinent Florida rules also require proof of the lawyer's "sole" motivation.  (Mike Frisch)

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