Friday, April 4, 2008
A Nebraska lawyer who had advanced sums to an unemployed personal-injury client "for such things as transportation and vehicle expenses, insurance premiums, and rent" was suspended for 60 days by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Nebraska had modified its rule effective September 1, 1995, but the attorney's conduct was found to violate both versions of the rule. The court cites with approval a Maryland case holding that the rule has no exception for humanitarian acts. The court provides little, if any, explanation why suspension is the appropriate sanction.
I do not favor a blanket ban on financial assistance to a truly needy client regardless of the motive. While such payments should not be permitted to induce a prospective client to retain the lawyer or in circumstances that create a significant conflict of interest, a suspension for truly humanitarian help shocks my conscience.(Mike Frisch)