Monday, October 5, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
An attorney was permanently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court, ending a rather remarkable career at the bar. He was admitted in 1982 and first suspended in 1986 as a result of a felony conviction. He consented to disbarment in 1987. The court, in a decision it would come to regret, granted readmission in 1999.
Here, the court affirms findings in connection with a wide array of ethics violations after reinstatement. While many of the complaints involve findings of neglect and failure to return unearned fees, two in particular stand out. The first involved a conviction on plea of no contest to the theft of a $7 pair of shoes from Walmart. The second involved his unwanted sexually suggestive comments to the mother of a prospective client who was considering retaining him as her son's counsel in a criminal matter. She believed that he was suggesting a sexual arrangement in lieu of a fee. After she declined to hire him, he visited him in jail and falsely claimed to have been retained. (Mike Frisch)
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
I bought a copy of the 2002 David Thomson's The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, which I found sitting on a shelf in a used bookstore somewhere in Cambridge, Boston, or Ann Arbor (I can't remember which), and it answered a question I had pondered once in a while. There was a man named Samuel Goldwyn (left), there was a production company called The Samuel Goldwyn Company (whose films included Wuthering Heights, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Bishop's Wife, Guys and Dolls, and Porgy and Bess, among others) and a company called Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whose legendarily evil boss was Louis B. Mayer. How did that all come to be?
A man named Schmuel Gelbfisz emigrated from Poland, arriving in the United States in 1899. He anglicized his name to Samuel Goldfish and got involved in the motion picture business with his brother-in-law, Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille. That business merged with Adolph Zukor's company but Goldfish and Zukor didn't get along. Goldfish left and in joined in 1916 to form a new company with the Selwyn brothers. (Thomson notes they had the good sense to name the company "Goldwyn" and not "Selfish.") Goldfish changed his name (again) to Goldwyn to match the company.
Meanwhile, back on the East Coast, Louis B. Mayer formed a production company called Alco, which became Metro. Mayer broke away from Metro in 1917 to form The Mayer Company, which had a studio in Brooklyn and then in L.A.
Meanwhile, back on the West Coast, Goldwyn (nee Goldfish) didn't get along with the Selwyns, so he broke away in and formed The Samuel Goldwyn Company, which produced independently through United Artists and later RKO.
Metro, now owned by Loew's, but originally formed by Mayer, reconsolidated all of the businesses by acquiring The Mayer Company as well as the original Goldwyn business, in which Samuel was now merely a shareholder, and so we had Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The year before the Metro acquisition, Mayer had hired Irving Thalberg away from Universal, and after the acquisition, Loew's sent Mayer out to manage the West Coast operations, and the rest was history.
Many years later (around the time MGM was producing Ben-Hur in the late 1950s), Loew's Incorporated itself became involved in proxy litigation that became a staple in Delaware corporate case law. Got it?
The Louisiana Supreme Court has dismissed a disciplinary matter in which its Attorney Disciplinary Board had proposed public reprimand. The matter involved representation of a client with a redhibition claim against Ford Motor Company. The retainer agreement allowed the lawyer to be paid at an hourly rate with any fee contingent on recovery. The case settled for $10,000 with the client receiving $5,400 of the proceeds. The client complained to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, claiming he was unaware of the total amount of the settlement. A hearing committee proposed dismissal of the ensuing charges. The disciplinary board disagreed, concluding that the attorney's failure to keep contemporaneous time records meant that the client's consent to the arrangement was not fully informed.
The court found any violation to be de minimis and noted that not every violation of the Rules warrants professional discipline. Based on the hours worked, the attorney had reduced his fee from $7,900 to $4,000. The lawyer acted without improper or dishonest motive. The change in fee charges were for the client's benefit. However, the court reminded lawyers of the need to obtain informed consent to changes in a fee calculation.
The court also held that there is no ethical ban to the combined hourly/contingency fee agreement. (Mike Frisch)