Wednesday, November 4, 2009
A Grievance Commission Panel of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar imposed a public reprimand for representation adverse to a former client. The lawyer [for clarity "Lawyer") "has extended family in the community in which he practices" (which happens to be the home town of former D.C. Bar Counsel Len Becker). He had represented his cousin's wife in a rear-end collision case where her injuries were an element of damages. Her deposition was taken and the case settled on the eve of jury selection. She raised with Lawyer the possibility of him handling her divorce. Lawyer declined to accept representation adverse to his cousin.
As such things happen, the cousin asked Lawyer to represent him when the wife filed for divorce. Lawyer accepted and entered an appearence. The wife sought counsel from an attorney she had consulted jointly with the husband. She agreed to waive any conflicts claims as to Lawyer if the husband would waive conflicts as well. Lawyer refused to waive and continued to represent his cousin as "he perceived no conflict on his part..." He "vigorously opposed his own disqualification" but was nonetheless removed as counsel.
The panel here concluded that the two matters were substantially related. Lawyer received confidential information concerning the wife's health, work history and earnings potential. The panel also rejected Lawyer's contention that his disqualification was a "radical departure from the prior law..." (Mike Frisch