Friday, December 7, 2007
A decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court demonstrates the value of procedures for consent discipline in bar matters. The attorney, who had two prior informal admonitions, had been retained to defend a civil action. The suit was dismissed for inactivity and the lawyer so advised his clients. Problems started when the suit was reinstated. The attorney failed to advise the clients of the renewed suit, failed to defend the case (including not even attending the trial) and made misrepresentations to the clients and the court (he falsely claimed the clients had declared bankruptcy). Judgment was entered against the clients for over $534,000. The clients then learned of the above developments and obtained new counsel. However, the judgment has been collected and the attorney has no malpractice insurance.
Disciplinary Counsel and the attorney agreed to the above facts and proposed a suspension of 18 months. As a result, the case was submitted to a disciplinary panel in August of this year and now is concluded. The court adopted the joint recommendation for discipline. Such a result is impossible in a jurisidiction (like D.C.) that has no consent procedures. The mutual benefit here is that the disciplinary panels can devote more time and attention to contested cases and the attorney must petition for reinstatement, which offers a measure of public protection. (Mike Frisch)