Friday, September 12, 2008

A Letter Better Left Unsent

The Iowa Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand of an attorney who had been retained in a shower installation project dispute. The client had installed shower tiles and his contractor refused to pay his bill due to an unrelated disagreement. Opposing counsel provided the lawyer with a warranty document that the client claimed was a forgery. The lawyer then wrote a letter to opposing counsel that threatened criminal charges and offered that the client would not to cooperate in a criminal investigation if he was paid in full. He also offered to destroy the allegedly forged document as part of the settlement. Opposing counsel sent the letter to the Disciplinary Board and as a result ethics charges were filed.

The Grievance Commission found some of the charged violations and issued a private admonition, which was appealed to the court. The court found that the offer to destroy evidence was prejudicial to the administration of justice and adversely reflected on fitness to practice. The court concluded that admonition was insufficient but found "nothing in the record to suggest that the public would be at risk of further harm if we allowed [him] to continue to practice law." (Mike Frisch)

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