May 19, 2008
No De Facto Parenthood In Maryland
The Maryland Court of Appeals held today that Maryland law does not recognize the concept of de facto parenthood. One member of a committed, long-term same-sex relationship had adopted a child from India. After six years of raising the child together, the couple split and the non-adopting partner sought visitation. The court majority ruled that the non-custodial partner did not have parental status and remanded for a determination of whether "exceptional circumstances" warranted the grant of visitation rights. A dissent would find that parental rights were established under these circumstances. (Mike Frisch)
Next Stop Graniteville
A lawyer who is admitted in Louisiana and South Carolina had practiced only in Louisiana but opened a South Carolina law office in order to solicit legal business in the wake of a train derailment in Graniteville South Carolina. After discipline was imposed in South Carolina for violations of rules relating to advertising and solicitation, the Louisiana Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand as reciprocal discipline. The court rejected the contention that the misconduct did not violate Louisiana ethics rules in that they were "technical violations or differences in semantics, many of which are not considered violations under the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct." (Mike Frisch)
Reciprocal Sanction Imposed
The Kansas Supreme Court imposed an indefinite suspension as reciprocal discipline for a Missouri disbarment by default. The matter was delayed for two years because the disciplined lawyer had represented that he would move to set aside the Missouri sanction. The court here had some procedural concerns but ultimately concluded that the Missouri default was functionally equivalent to a consent disbarment. The court states:
After careful consideration, we conclude the final hearing report's findings of fact and conclusions of law relative to the underlying Missouri claims of misconduct and their Kansas counterparts were inappropriate as such misconduct was not charged in the Kansas formal complaint nor did the Missouri Supreme Court determine that such misconduct occurred. However, it has been established by clear and convincing evidence that respondent was disbarred in Missouri for misconduct in failing to file a timely response to the Missouri information and that, by Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.13, the effect thereof is consent to disbarment by the Missouri Supreme Court. Accordingly, that order of disbarment is valid and satisfies the grounds for reciprocal discipline set forth in Supreme Court Rule 202, which provides that a final adjudication in another jurisdiction that a lawyer has been guilty of misconduct shall conclusively establish the misconduct for purposes of a disciplinary proceeding in Kansas.
Respondent's representation that he would seek to set aside the Missouri default disbarment was untrue, although he has been given ample time to seek such relief. Such misrepresentation is a violation of Supreme Court Rule 8.4(d) (2007 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 559) as charged in the formal complaint. As previously noted, failure to file a response to the Kansas formal complaint and to appear before this court constitute additional misconduct. We further conclude the appropriate discipline to be imposed is indefinite suspension with the special condition that no application for reinstatement will be considered unless accompanied by proof that respondent has been reinstated to the practice of law in Missouri.
Criminal Conviction For Unauthorized Practice
An attorney admitted to practice in Kansas and Illinois was indefinitely suspended by the Kansas Supreme Court as a result of a criminal conviction for five counts of unauthorized practice in Minnesota, where the attorney was not admitted. The court also found and "pattern of unprofessional and abusive contact" with the sued party (a construction company) and false communications in litigation. The attorney threatened lawsuits for $2.5 and $5 billion in damages. Illinois had imposed a 30 day suspension for the same misconduct and the Kansas sanction was based on an independent proceeding rather than as reciprocal discipline. The attorney also holds a pharmacy license.
An example of the letters that the court deemed to be unprofessional:
The letter is formatted just as the Respondent's letters were formatted. This letter contains the following odd language:
'I am disappointed that we will have to go to court to avoid going to jail because of bills and hardship your company has caused. I thought you were a more decent human being than this. The angels said in meditation that they were encouraging you to settle with us to help us after what your company has done to us. And now we will have to go to court. We will get awarded much more money than what is fair and just to your company, which is often done in these cases when you treat people inhumanely.
'You will be receiving the letter from Dr. Jason Reed on Monday, because he was out of town until then. By then it will be too late because we will already be in court.
'We can play dirty too, like you are trying to do. But we won't. Our morals wouldn't allow it.
'I would like to appeal to you as a human being who happened to buy a faulty product from you and was continuously put off by underlings to the point of financially ruining us and making us incredibly ill. But you are not humane are you? Or you would settle with us like the angels said. To [sic] bad you are going to ruin your nice company and be the cause of its downfall. The angels told us this would happen if you did not listen to them in meditation and be a source of light for all people.'
The attorney had joined in the request for an indefinite suspension in the hope of saving her pharmacy license and had expressed "genuine remorse" for the misconduct. (Mike Frisch)