Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tax Lawyer Admonished For Advertising/Solicitation

The Virginia State Bar web page has just posted the decision of a three-judge court in a case on which we had previously blogged. The court imposed a public admonition with terms on a tax lawyer found to have violated Virginia Rule 7.1 by providing false or misleading information about his services to potential clients. The lawyer had earlier asserted that  information about his tax services were not governed by attorney advertising prohibitions ("the services...were administrative in nature and did not involve an attorney-client relationship"). This sanction was imposed as a result of an agreed disposition.  (Mike Frisch)

April 26, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

The Foolish Decision Safety Commission

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Just to prove, I guess, that even Harvard law professors, and distinguished ones at that, can get carried away with analogical reasoning, Elizabeth Warren has proposed a Financial Product Safety Commission, on the theory that, if government regulation can protect you from an unsafe toaster, it ought to be able to protect you from an unsafe mortgage.

Images2 I thought about this yesterday morning driving out Massachusetts Avenue, and looking at the significant number of small law offices in North Cambridge and East Arlington, and the number of law students who seem to be saying that they were misled (or something more benign but no less significant financially) into running up $100,000 or so in debt to go to law school, but now cannot find jobs paying sufficient incomes to repay the loans.  And I thought, what this country needs is Career Decision Safety Commission.  After all, if the government can protect people from bad toasters and bad loans, it ought to be able to regulate career decisions so that people don't end up bitching and moaning about their inability to pay their student loans.

There's no end to the possibilities (not to mention the job creation for young lawyers who can't pay back their loans).  I would have appreciated it, back in the 80's, if there had been a Videotape Format SafetyImages4 Commission that would have kept me from buying Betamax (see above left).  Or a Personal Computer Operating System Safety Commission that would have mandated disclosures that kept me from buying that Apple IIGS computer (right) whose primary value was its ability to run the "Dinowalk" and Carmen Sandiego programs.  Or some agency that would have kept me from buying the worst car ever made:  the 1984 Images5 Chrysler Laser.  (Why did I need to be protected?  Because in 1984 I was turning thirty, about to become a father for the first time, and experiencing my first of several mid-life crises.  I was the poster child for somebody about to make a really bad decision about buying a quasi-sports car that had room in the back for a baby seat.  If I had known that it was  a decent looking body clamped on top of a K car chassis, I never would have bought it.)

Here's the problem with Professor Warren's analogy.  A bad toaster or a bad baby stroller is dangerous without exception, and the problem is latent.  The problem with a variable rate loan is not that the dangers are hidden, or that it is always unsafe, but that it's sometimes unsuitable.  I'm not a huge fan of litigation, but it strikes me that the unsuitability doctrine that gives a cause of action to a securities purchaser against a broker (e.g. if Gordon Slicko talks Grandma on a fixed income into short selling troubled companies on margin) makes more sense than a team of government bureaucrats writing incomprehensible disclosures about financial instruments that may make a hell of a lot of sense for some people.

But that's just my opinion.  I could be wrong.

UPDATE:  By the way, it occurred to me that the federal government indeed did impose regulation on this process about thirty years ago:  the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act, or "RESPA."  When you close on a house, and spend about 45 minutes signing a whole raft of forms you never read, including the disclosures and disclaimers on your adjustable rate mortgages, and including the Truth-in-Lending disclosure on the actual annual percentage rate, and including the amount you will actually pay for your house in absolute dollars over the life of the loan (usually three or four times the amount of the purchase price), that's RESPA regulation at work.

FURTHER UPDATE:  On the very serious subject of law school student loans, Alan Childress makes the very good point that the lesson of the recent Henderson and Morriss study is that entering students need to be thoughtful about slavish adherence to USNWR rankings in law school choice when considering attractive financial packages offered by "lower ranked" schools.

April 26, 2008 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Update, FWIW: Yes, the Talented Mr. Phipps Went to Loyola-N.O.

Posted by Alan Childress

Last week, I posted this item on a lawyer, Roger Phipps, whom the Fifth Circuit admonished by name for being unprepared at oral argument, to the point where he flippantly argued without reading cases.  The Court asked where he went to school (BTW, no good ever comes of that question in this setting!). And the Court's opinion quoted his reply that it was "Loyola."  Yesterday, an administrator at Loyola-N.O. sent out a mass email denying in caps ("GOOD NEWS") that Mr. Phipps was their graduate (see comments to the earlier post); the email was -- obviously, foreseeably -- posted widely on the internet. 

Because that email publicly disagreed with this blog's (rather uneventful) statements that Phipps's Martindale-Hubbell entry was wrong and that he had indeed gone to LoyNO (not my main point), and because internal research rather than relying on the internet would have revealed the error, I expected a correction to be forthcoming.  When silence followed and it appeared I was supposed to just accept the implicit characterization that I was stating the facts falsely, I asked the registrar at Loyola-Chicago whether Mr. Phipps was their graduate as MarHub showed (and made clear I was asking for no other information, other than confirmation or not of the public listing as J.D., 1990, from Loy.-Chi.).  I identified myself and my purpose.

This morning, I received an email from the registrar at Loyola-Chicago confirming that Roger Phipps did not attend their law school.  The email added that the registrar had further contacted Loyola-New Orleans, which emailed her (per a dean) to "confirm that a Roger D. Phipps is a 1990 graduate of Loyola University New Orleans" after all.

I have all along suggested that I don't think it reflects much on Loyola (any Loyola) either way that some 1990 graduate is a poor advocate who spoke without doing his homework.  I stand by that, though the irony here is not lost on me.  I have taught classes at Loyola, proudly, and I admire many of their professors, students, and graduates.  I constantly read in the news about a clinical professor from the school fighting hard for criminal justice in a broken post-Katrina system.  I co-teach in Greece with a family law professor doing cutting-edge work on reproductive technologies.  One of their legal ethics professors literally wrote the book on Louisiana ethics.  I have even taught some of their professors (am I that old?), such as one just named full professor for his outstanding publications on civil law property.  I have hired, over the years, three of their graduates as attorneys to represent me in matters crucial to my life.  One of their graduates sat as a Judge on that Fifth Circuit panel (making the attorney Phipps's gaffe even worse) and is one of the finest judges and people I have ever known. I have justifiably recommended their students, my students there, to clerkships and graduate programs. 

Now I find that it is six hours four days after Loy.-Chi. received the private correction, and way more than 24 hours after the mass email.  And I still have heard nothing of a public correction.  So I will just post this.

Continue reading

April 25, 2008 in Straddling the Fence | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Unrelated To Practice

An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended disbarment for misconduct outside of the practice of law. The lawyer and a non-attorney had formed a partnership "for the purpose of developing and marketing a residential condominium project in Chicago." The lawyer converted parnership funds and failed to participate in the bar proceedings. Little weight was given to the absence of prior discipline. After reviewing an earlier precedent, the board concludes:

"In the present case, as in Burnham, we find little difference between Respondent’s conduct and theft. Respondent took money that did not belong to him with the intent to deprive the company and his partner of the money.

Also in Burnham, as in the present case, the misconduct arose from actions taken by an attorney outside of the practice of law. In addressing this issue, the Hearing Board in Burnham relied on the well-established principle that an attorney 'is subject to discipline under the Rules of Professional Conduct for dishonest behavior even though he is not serving in the capacity of an attorney for the victim of his actions.' (Hearing Bd. Rpt. at p. 6). In this case, as in Burnham, the fact that Respondent’s misconduct occurred in the context of a business relationship does not impact our ability to recommend the appropriate discipline."

The issue in such cases is not whether the conduct took place in a practice setting, but whether it reflects on the characteristics necessary for the honorable practice of law. The hearing board got it right. (Mike Frisch)

April 25, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Privilege For Expert Report

In an action to enforce a disability policy issued by the defendants, the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department held that a letter to the plaintiff from an expert analyzing rights under the policy was not protected by attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine. The letter was prepared shortly before the plaintiff had retained counsel. Further:

"although the letter was prepared after defendants' rejection of plaintiff's claim...litigation was not commenced for two years. No explanation is provided for this gap between the letter's creation and commencement of litigation, indicative of uncertainty whether to pursue litigation. Absent any indication that plaintiff's attorney even knew of the letter until its disclosure by third-party defendant, we reject plaintiff's argument that the circumstances warrant an in camera review of not only the letter itself but also of the circumstances surrounding its creation." (Mike Frisch)

April 25, 2008 in Pro Bono | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Boston Legal Portrays the Real McCoy While The Office Is a Liability Petri Dish

Posted by Alan Childress

Continuing my apparent theme this week of lawyers in popular culture and media portrayals -- from John Adams to TV ads to Law & Order -- I note that, yesterday in the California Blog of Appeal, Ventura appellate ace Greg May posted that the show Boston Legal this week featured Supreme Court lookalikes and real Justice names in an "oral argument."  He cites and links the Harmful Error Blog as providing a YouTube video of the hot bench and the comment that this is "fairly amazing."  I wonder if Justice Thomas asked any questions.  I am pretty sure no lawyer from Loyola-Marymount answered "Nope" to Justice Scalia or sMv5bmtc2ntu1mtgzml5bml5banbnxkftztyuggested to him that reading case law before the argument might make one's head hurt so was to be avoided. 

Greg also links his prior post on a blogger-lawyer (Atlanta's Julie Elgar) who watches The Office to tally up all the liability events in each episode.  That could be more daunting than keeping up with the card count with Kevin Spacey in 21.  [21?  Not 22?  That explains it!]  Elgar's intro to last week's episode is a tad surprising and not particularly comforting:

Despite what you might think, Michael’s demand that all employees provide him with candidates to serve as the mother of his children does not violate any major employment law.

I did guess right on this one:

That being said, allowing managers to require their subordinates to act as match-makers as a term and condition of their continued employment isn’t a good idea.

April 25, 2008 in Lawyers & Popular Culture | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meursault Concludes the Semester

Posted by Alan Childress

Although I almost understand Jeff's inspiration from Albert Camus at the close of his semester, I think the better lesson comes from The Stranger, especially as I just finished teaching both Evidence and Images_2 Legal Ethics.  Rather than moving a rock uphill, the main character Meursault has to grapple with lawyers and the odd conception of relevance and character that a trial, even for killing a man perhaps justifiably, can become (my bold):

[My lawyer] sat down on the bed and explained to me that there had been some investigations into my private life. It had been learned that my mother had died recently at the home. Inquiries had then been made in Marengo. The investigators had learned that I had 'shown insensitivity' the day of Maman's funeral. ... He asked if I had felt any sadness that day. The question caught me by surprise and it seemed to me that I would have been very embarrassed if I'd had to ask it. Nevertheless, I answered that I had pretty much lost the habit of analyzing myself and that it was hard for me to tell him what he wanted to know. I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything. At one time or another all normal people have wished that their loved ones were dead. Here the lawyer interrupted me and he seemed very upset. He made me promise I wouldn’t say that at my hearing or in front of the examining magistrate. I explained to him, however, that my nature was such that my physical needs often got in the way of my feelings. the day I buried Maman, I was very tired and sleepy, so much so that I wasn’t really aware of what was going on. What I can say for certain is that I would rather Maman hadn't died. But my lawyer didn’t seem satisfied. He said, 'That's not enough.'

...I pointed out to him that none of this had anything to do with my case, but all he said was that it was obvious I had never had any dealings with the law.

Yeah, I have had clients almost like that.  And legend in one law firm I worked for (a long time ago) was the principal of some company who was alleged to have colluded with his competitors to have fixed prices.  "That's not true," he insisted to us emphatically, almost feeling wronged.  "We voted fair and square!"

April 24, 2008 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Concluding Remarks to My Agency, Partnership, & LLC Class

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

If you are about to teach the last class of a semester, and you've spent a total of 2,100 minutes (in a three credit class) or 2,800 minutes (in a four credit class), you may give some thought to what you say in the last five minutes or so.  Not everybody is so inclined.  I can imagine saying "and that wraps up res judicata," closing the book, and walking out.  But that would mean giving up the chance to float some choice platitudes, and floating choice platitudes is why "I'm up here in the booth."

Here, for what it's worth, are today's closing platitudes to the students in Agency, Partnership, & LLC.  And, no, you are not responsible for this on the exam:

I was a litigator for the first ten years of my career before I turned to transactional and corporate work.

Litigation is an incredibly structured way to live out your career.

This is in terms of (a) cases having a beginning, middle, and end in a certain repeating pattern, (b) the docket controlling your life, and (c) your relationship as a lawyer to the rules of advocacy, whether of argumentation or procedure.

People come into your world, and it’s easy to believe that the world is one constituted primarily by law, and norms set by law.  But: 

    - Try to explain hearsay to a normal person.
    - Try to explain the technique of being a deposition witness to a normal person.

Moreover, it is a world in which, all things considered, you exercise a moderate amount of control.  Indeed, my sense of being in control was so developed that I came truly to hate two particular aspects of the litigation process - (1) doing direct examination of my own witnesses where I couldn't lead, and therefore had to rely on the witness, and (2) listening to the other lawyer's cross-examination of my witness (although the borderline unethical tactic of speaking objections during depositions gives some control to those willing to employ it).

Transactional practice is an interesting challenge, and particularly in this area of unincorporated associations, because of the relationship between the default rules and how the world works.

    - First, rather than others being on your legal turf, you are a lawyer out on the business turf.

    - Second, you are obliged to be a master of a web of doctrine.  You must know what the implications are if the default rules of agency, partnership, corporate law, or LLCs apply.

    - Third, you have the freedom, if you have the confidence and the ability, to change almost everything, by crafting a new set of rules.

    - And finally, to be more than a lawyer’s lawyer, you need to understand that it’s a world not necessarily primarily constituted by law:

        - That because the law, or a contract, or a partnership agreement, entitles you to a right or benefit, doesn’t necessarily mean that you or your client are obliged to seize the right or benefit.

        - Indeed, one of my theories is that the willingness to have a legal right, but nevertheless to see it as either tradable or waivable, or simply to let it pass, is the grease that makes relationships, even economic ones, work.

    I thus think of the great business lawyers as simultaneously being professional experts, creative artists, and moral and social philosophers.

    I hope you have gotten some sense of that here.

April 24, 2008 in Law & Business, Teaching & Curriculum, The Practice | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Don't Suspend Me If You Want Me To Make Restitution

The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed a six-month suspension that had been imposed by its Committee on Professional Conduct. Three months of the suspension was for failure to respond to a bar complaint and an untimely motion for reconsideration. The lawyer then undertook a felony case with knowledge that he had been suspended, which led to the additional three months. There had been a significant delay in processing the second complaint. The lawyer had failed to repay an unearned fee during that lengthy period of time and argued that a suspension "would make it nearly impossible for him to find a good-paying job where he could pay the restitution owed to [the former client]." (Mike Frisch)

April 24, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law and Order To Repeat Its Good-Bye To Jesse Martin

Posted by Alan Childress

Last week I blogged on Kelly Lynn Anders' (Washburn) interest in lawyers' portrayals in movies, TV, etc., and her Karen Silkwood article. She is also, unsurprisingly, a big Law and Order fan, as are many of my students who literally grew up on it and decided via Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy to go to law school.  They seem disappointed we offer no thunk-thunk sound when they say something dramatic in class. 

Me, not so much.  Not a big fan.  My fandom, if any, ended while cringing at envisioning one of their ripped from the headline stories based on a real Seattle D.A. event.  But I am a big fan of Jesse L. Martin, particularly on-stage and in film as Tom Collins in Rent (left), and I do look forward to his playing 03df01114 Marvin Gaye in an upcoming biopic.  So I took notice when Kelly told me he is leaving (now, has left) Law and Order.  She thought the episode was excellent and she reminds our readers that it will re-air on NBC Sunday Saturday night.  She writes:

    In typical revolving-door fashion, another “Law & Order” regular leaves the series in tonight’s episode. Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin), who was the last detective to partner with the late Jerry Orbach’s unfortgettable Lenny Briscoe, ends his run Apr. 23 in what promises to be a powerful episode that reveals some disturbing secrets behind Green’s professional demeanor.

    As TV Guide’s Matt Roush advises, “I’m truly sorry to see Martin go at this juncture of the show’s history. After a number of seasons of uneven cast chemistry…this season righted itself with the strong additions of Jeremy Sisto as Green’s new partner, the war-haunted Cyrus Lupo, and Linus Roache as scrappy new ADA Michael Cutter, working under the often dubious supervision of newly promoted DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston). The show, which even in its off years was never less than intelligent and compelling, has felt newly re-energized of late, and it’s too bad we couldn’t have enjoyed at least one full season of the refreshed stability.” (Source: “A Dramatic Exit for Jesse L. Martin” at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/tvguide/360246_roush23.html.)

    Additional details about the series are available at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098844/. The “Trivia” section is especially interesting. The show’s official site is available at http://www.nbc.com/Law_&_Order/.

Correction:  Look for the show Sunday Saturday night on NBC, at 10:00 p.m. EST.

April 24, 2008 in Lawyers & Popular Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Misappropriation As Therapy

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court imposed a five-year suspension in a case where the attorney had "mishandled an estate, converted funds owed to a beneficiary, and made misrepresentations to conceal the conversion." The attorney had previously been informally admonished for failure to file an appeal in a disability benefits matter. The estate funds at issue were a portion of a wrongful death settlement owed to an incarcerated person. The attorney had intentionally misappropriated the proceeds to pay for "office supplies, food, gasoline, wine, tickets for movies and sporting events, hotel rooms, and formal wear." When the beneficiary complained, the lawyer made a series of deposits into his prison account. The beneficiary then sought written proof relating to the deposits but was told that the lawyer had "fallen in love" causing a delay in providing such documentation. The lawyer made a false statement concerning the total amount of the deposits.

An expert testified on behalf of the lawyer at the disciplinary hearing that "depression was a significant contributor to the misconduct, as [the lawyer] was trying to self-treat himself by misappropriating money to make himself feel better." Former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode was a character witness for the lawyer. The lawyer did not help his cause by suggested that delay in paying a person in jail was no big deal.

The Disciplinary Board concluded that the lawyer had not established mitigation based on his depression. The board did not propose disbarment in light of the other character evidence. (Mike Frisch)

April 24, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sisyphus Concludes the Semester

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

There is a regular sequence of wholly free moments in academic life, and those moments are far less common in the practice - perhaps upon changing jobs, or closing a really big deal, or settling a really big case.  Finishing up my last bit of class prep reminded me of this famous reflection on the absurd effort to find meaning and even happiness in an absurd world:

"[O]ne sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands.  At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space Images1and time without depth, the purpose is achieved.  Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit.  He goes back down to the plain.

"It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me.  A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself!  I see that man going back down with heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end.  That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness.  At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate.  He is stronger than his rock."

                                                                         Albert Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus" (tr. Justin O'Brien, 1983)

April 24, 2008 in Teaching & Curriculum, The Practice | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

No Breach Of Plea Agreement

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that a prosecutor did not breach an obligation under a plea agreement to ask for a sentence of imprisonment no greater than eight years. The government's sentencing memo had a footnote that referred to the judge's authority to impose a higher sentence. The memo also had a "lenghty exposition of [defendant's] abuse and cruelty toward the victim...."  The court here concludes that zealous advocacy for the maximum sentence pursuant to the agreement did not constitute a breach: "...an agreed upward limit must be given a wide berth in allocution, and we are satisfied that the prosecutor did not cross the line here." (Mike Frisch)

April 24, 2008 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The People's Court Has One Less Judge

The New Mexico Supreme Court ordered the removal of a judge who had engaged in the following misconduct:

"Over a period of almost three years, Metropolitan Court Judge J. Wayne Griego engaged in conduct that betrayed the public trust and undermined the judiciary’s integrity by bypassing evidentiary hearings and adjudicating tickets for family members and friends without state participation. When confronted with evidence of this conduct, Griego blamed his staff, an explanation that the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission (the Commission) did not find credible. Under these circumstances, our constitutional duty demands that we remove Griego from the bench."

Removal from the bench was imposed notwithstanding a recommendation for suspension by the commission:

"The metropolitan court handles well over 100,000 cases per year. As a result, the public has a significant amount of contact with metropolitan court judges and staff. Indeed, one witness in this case characterized the metropolitan court as the 'people’s court,' and another testified that adjudicating traffic cases is a major part of a metropolitan court judge’s duties. A judge appointed to the metropolitan court should take the adjudication of traffic cases seriously. It is also significant that a metropolitan court judge must be a licensed attorney. As such, the judge has had the benefit of a law school education and has been required to pass a rigorous bar exam, including an exam exclusively pertaining to the Code of Professional Conduct. Ex parte communications are prohibited in the Code, Rule 16-305(B) NMRA, an ethical consideration of which Griego must have been aware prior to assuming his role as a judge. In our view, Griego’s conduct demonstrates a lack of commitment to his judicial duties and has an immeasurable impact on the public’s confidence in the judicial system." (Mike Frisch)

April 23, 2008 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

When Lawyers Divorce

The Oregon Supreme Court reversed a spousal support award and modified the property division to grant the wife a one-half interest in two trusts. Both husband and wife are lawyers: she practiced in Montana'a water court; he was in private practice and a county prosecutor. He was the beneficiary of two family trusts. The trusts "became a significant financial asset for the husband and wife." The court concluded that:

"Husband's assurances and his financial planning with regard to the trusts caused wife to change her circumstances dramatically, leaving a new home and a satisfying, stable job to begin a retirement that was more husband's desire than hers. See Becker, 122 Or App at 571 (granting the husband a greater equalizing judgment against the wife, where the parties had not saved for retirement, 'in anticipation that [the] wife's trust receipts * * * would keep them financially secure during retirement'). That change of position, in reliance on husband's actions, cannot be ignored in making an equitable division of the property.

Moreover, this marriage was of long duration, and in such cases, 'we are less concerned with identifying the relative contributions of the parties than we are with ensuring that the parties separate on as equal a basis as possible under the circumstances.' Bentson and Bentson, 61 Or App 282, 285, 656 P2d 395, rev den, 294 Or 613 (1983). In this case, the most valuable asset the parties have is husband's interest in the Brown Trust corpus, valued at $250,000. There is no other asset of the parties that is comparable. Were we to ignore that asset in dividing the marital property, we would not leave the parties 'on as equal a basis as possible.' Id. It is therefore just and proper to give wife a portion of husband's interests in the trusts." (Mike Frisch)

April 23, 2008 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Discipline In Ohio

The Ohio Supreme Court decided two bar discipline cases involving Cleveland-area attorneys (no mention if either had an office in the same building as Whiplash Willie Gingrich). In one matter, the attorney said that she "keep[s] a stable of 23 seniors that I'm able to assist...And when they die off, I replace them." She "deceptively claimed reimbursements for expenditures she could not substantiate" and "tried to conceal the discrepancy through illegimate lawsuits and falsified evidence..."

The court stated that "[r]arely are we called upon to sanction a lawyer for advancing frivolous lawsuits." The "[attorney] expressed much passion...for protecting the interests of disabled and senior citizens" and had not profited personally from her zealous advocacy. The court imposed an 18 month suspension with all but six months stayed.

The second case involved an attorney who had "accepted a settlement offer without the client's knowledge, obtained settlement proceeds with forged client endorsements, charged excessive fees, and failed to account for client funds." The court sustained the lawyer's exception to a finding of unethical behavior in paying a lawyer not affiliated with him to assist the client without the client's consent, but admonished that such actions "are not without ethical difficulty." Two-year suspension with the second year stayed. (Mike Frisch)

April 23, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Misprison Of Felony

An attorney convicted of misprison of a felony was disbarred by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The lawyer had "actively participated in health care fraud cover-up." His client (and later co-defendant) had engaged in a fraudulent scheme to use pension funds for his other companies. The former client was ordered to pay over $5.7 million in restitution. The lawyer sought to minimize his role in this disciplinary case but the court found that the admissions in his plea established his active participation in the fraud. While this is the first Oklahoma bar case involving a misprison of felony conviction, the court concluded that:

"Past behavior being the best forecaster of future behavior, disbarment is the only discipline which will protect the public and restore integrity to the bar lost by Golden's misconduct. Our decision in Shofner and consistency compel that Golden be disbarred. Disbarment is the appropriate discipline, the discipline which will best serve the public's welfare, and the only discipline that will protect the integrity of the bar and the judicial system."

(Mike Frisch)

April 23, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Inexplicable TV Commercials

The TV year 2008 has already sported months of watching losers on-cam at various Burger King 'restaurants' showing their violent withdrawal symptoms when informed, in effect, "No Whopper For You."  It comes across like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting trying to quit heroin.  What ad wizard041006_burgerking thought I'd want to be more like the BK patrons?  (Same ones, I guess, who thought I'd want to have a creepy plastic King surprise me with breakfast in bed.)  What kind of shopping mall focus group voted thumbs up on those ads?  Probably bitter people clinging to their traditions of beef and sesame seeds.

Now we find that we are supposed to be taking serious and crucial investment advice from...Dennis Hopper

I admit that I find the competitor's spokesperson Sam Waterston to be preachy and elitist, just like his lawyer character on Law and Order -- but at least I wouldn't be deathly afraid that if I gave Sam my retirement dollars, he would be using them at the next intersection to try to score three tabs of acid.

[Alan Childress]

April 22, 2008 in Blogging | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Suspended Suspension For Recovering Addict

An attorney who had used a forged prescription to attempt to obtain a controlled substance violated Rule
8.4(b) by engaging in a criminal act that adversely reflected on his fitness to practice. He had been subject to an interim suspension and is making progress in a program for addiction recovery. The North Dakota Supreme Court imposed a suspended sanction of a two-year suspension with a series of conditions. The suspension will be imposed for a violation of the conditions of the lawyer's disciplinary probation. (Mike Frisch)

April 22, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law & Society Ass'n Conference (May 29-June 1, Montreal) Has Panels on Legal Profession

Posted by Alan Childress

The annual meeting of the Law & Society Association, this year in conjunction with the Canadian Law & Society Association, will be held in Montreal, Canada, from May 29-June 1, 2008 (with some events, particularly of the Canadian group, a few days after).  Here is program and hotel information, and a guide to the many interesting panels proposed: Download prog_4_10.doc.  Some of them deal with issues of legal business and practice, including trends in big firms and problems of prosecutorial misconduct.  One I look forward to is hearing Marc Galanter and Bill Henderson on "the [new, elastic] tournament of lawyers" and their study forthcoming in Stanford Law Review, as noted on at Legal Ethics Forum here, with a link to the SSRN version of their important paper.

UPDATE:  Other Law & Society panels on the legal profession, law firms, and global practice are listed in comments to this post at LEF, including a May 29 presentation (on biglaw engagement agreements) by one of its editors, John Steele.  That panel goes on my to-do list too.

April 22, 2008 in Conferences & Symposia, Law & Business, Law & Society, Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)