October 17, 2009
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
I had to re-read some of my early law review articles (well, relatively speaking, since I only started writing them in 2005). They reminded me of some valid but painful criticism I got from an anonymous blind reviewer of a work that has since been humanely euthanized: long block quotes are bad practice. Paraphrase to the extent you can. Put the thought into your own words. Show that you have actually engaged with the concept. Don't let your flow be interrupted by somebody else's rhetorical style.
In my defense, I think this came from long experience as a brief writer in litigation practice. It's probably more persuasive to a judge that you quote what the other court said, rather than merely paraphrasing with a cite. Indeed, more often than not, such paraphrases and string cites were deceptive, and one stock in trade of a bright young lawyer was the ability to demonstrate in response or reply briefs just how deceptive they were.
If, however, you are moving from the world of brief writing to the world of article writing, consider that the audience may not be the same, and adapt your style.
October 16, 2009
Don't Bounce a Check To The Bar
An attorney who had attended required CLE but bounced the payment check was found to have engaged in unauthorized practice while suspended. He had moved four times and denied receiving notice of his suspension. Eventually, he made the payment and was reinstated.
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board had found the misconduct to be negligent and imposed a public reprimand. On appeal of the sanction by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed that the sanction was insufficient in light of a series of past similar lapses by the lawyer. The court imposed a six-month suspension with all but 30 days stayed, followed by two years of unsupervised probation. (Mike Frisch)
New AALS Section Newsletter Is Out, Provides Many Resources on PR
Posted by Alan Childress
Here is the hot-off-presses Newsletter of the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility. Thanks are owed again to the generosity of the AALS section officers, both for the time and effort it took to write such a useful newsletter and for allowing us to link to it. You can find it in pdf here: Download AALSNewsletterSum09.
Thanks especially to Randy Lee at Widener, its general editor, and Laurel Terry at Penn State, the section chair this year, as well as all the scholarly contributors from profs at various schools. For example, as always, Fred Zacharias (San Diego) has an excellent summary of recent scholarship in the field. In her chairperson's intro, Professor Terry not only notes the new listserv but also invites you to attend a section dinner at The Palace Cafe in New Orleans during the AALS annual meeting. Dinner is Friday night, Jan. 9, 2010, at 7:30 pm. Just give her a heads up, as explained on page 3 of the newsletter. She chose a great menu, with three entree options. She especially noted that she is welcoming attendance at the meal by those who teach legal ethics who may not have it as their main subject and may not be active in the section. See you there!
Accessory After The Fact
The web page of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility reports the suspension of an attorney convicted of accessory after the fact of an aggravated robbery. This post from December 2004 from Sheila Burke reports that the attorney "was caught coaching a woman to lie to authorities to protect a client of his accused in a robbery that involved a vicious dog attack." The witness told the truth to the authorities, who got the witness to call the attorney. "He told her to stick with her story and not to cave in to the police," according to the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the lawyer.
The dog was a pit bull named Biscuit.
The suspension is for four years and nine months. (Mike Frisch)
Insufficient Evidence Of Mitigation
An attorney admitted to practice in 1992 was suspended for three years by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. One matter involved an estate that was not difficult or complicated; the attorney's handling of the representation "evidence[d] a failure to attend to the affairs of the client in a competent, diligent, timely, or professional manner." A second matter could have been, but was not, resolved by a prompt refund to the client.
Of particular concern was the mismanagement of the attorney's IOLTA account, which was out of trust on 52 occasions and had a negative balance 20 times. The attorney had been "unable to explain the many discrepencies in [the]account..." The attorney had offered evidence relating to medical issues but without specific information or independent evidence to establish a basis for mitigation. (Mike Frisch)
Suspended, Then Disbarred
The Nebraska Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney who had repeatedly engaged in the unauthorized practice of law after two suspensions for non-payment of bar dues. The attorney had been reinstated and privately reprimanded for the unauthorized practice after reinstatement but had continued to practice after the second suspension.
The attorney also had a series of arrests and conviction for drunk driving. The court noted that the attorney had failed to participate in the bar disciplinary proceedings. (Mike Frisch)
MySpace Post Admitted Over Objection
Not strictly a legal profession case, but of possible interest is a decision from the Indiana Supreme Court affirming a conviction for the murder of a two-year old child. The defendant had testified in his own defense and was cross-examined about his MySpace self-descrition:
Society labels me an outlaw and criminal and sees more and more everyday how many of the people, while growing up, and those who judge me, are dishonest and dishonorable. Note, in one aspect I'm glad to say I have helped you people in my past who habe done something and achieved on the other hand, I'm sad to see so many people who have nowhere. To those people I say, if you can't do it and get away. B...shit..And with all my obstacles, the the f...can't you.
The court concluded that the trial court had not abused its discretion in admitting the post. (Mike Frisch)
Judge Suspended In Wake Of Criminal Charges
From the web page of the Indiana Supreme Court:
The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended Knox County Bicknell City Court Judge David Andrew Moreland, effective immediately. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed a “Notice of Criminal Charges and Request for Suspension” with the Indiana Supreme Court on October 13, 2009. After reviewing the request, the Indiana Supreme Court immediately ordered Judge Moreland suspended.
The “Notice of Criminal Charges and Request for Suspension,” cause number 42S00-0910-JD-441 was filed by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications when the Commission learned the Knox County Prosecutor had filed five Class D Felony charges for Theft against Judge Moreland. Commission attorney, Adrienne L. Meiring, notified the Indiana Supreme Court that the felony charges had been filed and asked the Court to suspend Judge Moreland. In the notice, Attorney Meiring pointed to Admission and Discipline Rule 25 V, subsection A of the Indiana Rules of Court. According to the rule:
A judicial officer shall be suspended with pay by the Supreme Court...upon the filing of an indictment or information charging the judicial officer in any court in the United States with a crime punishable as a felony under the laws of Indiana or the United States.
After reviewing the Commission’s request, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered Judge Moreland suspended until further order of the Court. The Indiana Supreme Court will appoint a judge pro tem to fill the vacancy left in Bicknell City Court.
The announcement notes that the judge is not an attorney. (Mike Frisch)
Lubet on John Brown and the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Harpers Ferry Raid
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Our friend, Steve Lubet (Northwestern) has a piece today in Salon marking the 150th anniversary of John Brown's pre-Civil War raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
You win today's prize, a Harrier jet, worth millions of dollars (not! see Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc.) if you can identify which of these pictures is Steve Lubet and which is John Brown.
October 15, 2009
One bankruptcy judge's fight against incompetent lawyers
You've got to love a judge who puts his expectations in clear, declarative sentences, and you can almost hear his teeth gritting as he writes this letter, which is now an official notice to lawyers practicing in his court (here). Methinks he's had enough.
(Posted by Nancy Rapoport)
Judicial Records Exempt From Disclosure
The Supreme Court of Washington has held that prior precedent compels the conclusion that the judiciary is not an "agency" and thus is exempt from the disclosure requirements of the state's public records act. The disclosures sought related to the resignation of a municipal court judge. The person who had sought the disclosure received some documents in response, but had been denied access to certain correspondence. The court majority declined the invitation to overrule its earlier decision. A concurring opinion suggests that any remedy must come from the legislature.
There is a dissent, which would hold that the prior case is not controlling. The dissent favors a broad construction of the term "agency" to encompass the judiciary. (Mike Frisch)
Lying To Client Draws SuspensionThe Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered a 60 day suspension followed by two years of unsupervised probation for conduct that the court described as "neglect of client matters, fabricating documents, and making false statements to conceal his neglect." (Mike Frisch)
Judge May Endorse Discovery Proclamation
A judge may endorse the Sedona Conference Cooperation Proclamation without running afoul of ethics rules, according to a recent opinion of Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. The inquiry:
The inquiring judge seeks to endorse the Cooperation Proclamation, and authorize the Sedona Conference to include the judge’s name in the endorsements section. The judge also wishes to promote, distribute, and speak at bar association meetings in support of the proclamation and its principles. The judge hopes that endorsement of the Cooperation Proclamation in these ways will assist in improving the quality of the practice of law in the state of Florida. The inquiring judge requests an advisory opinion as to whether such actions are permitted by the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.
The Committee is of the opinion that endorsement of the Cooperation Proclamation in the manner described by the inquiring judge is a quasi-judicial activity concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, which is encouraged by the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Other JEAC opinions support this conclusion. See Fla. JEAC Op. 98-31 (opining that judge may be a member of a voluntary bar association that joins a political action committee to support a proposed constitutional amendment); Fla. JEAC Op. 98-14 (opining that judge may advocate a position on proposed constitutional amendments in non-partisan public forums); Fla. JEAC Op. 94-01 (opining that judge may publicly advocate the signing of two petitions to amend the constitution); Fla. JEAC Op. 78-3 (opining that the Code does not proscribe member of the judiciary from expressing personal views in public regarding proposed constitutional amendments); Fla. JEAC Op. 76-16 (opining that judge’s efforts to educate the general public about a constitutional amendment are permissible under the Code). See also In re Inquiry Concerning a Judge, 417 So.2d 950, 954 (1982)(“There is no doubt that a judge in an appropriate forum may express his protest, dissent, and criticism of the present state of the law as long as he does not appear to substitute his concept of what the law ought to be for what the law actually is, and as long as he expresses himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in his integrity and impartiality as a judge.”)
The Committee reminds the judge, however, that while such quasi-judicial activities are encouraged by Canon 4B, they are also subject to other provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct. For example, a judge “shall not personally or directly participate in the solicitation of funds,” or engage in activities that “cast reasonable doubt on his or her capacity to act impartially as a judge” or “lead to frequent disqualification of a judge.” See Canons 4D(2)(a) and 4A(1). Accordingly, as was recommended by the Committee on Codes of Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States, this Committee also recommends that the judge retain some measure of control over the use of the judge’s endorsement, including the right to veto inappropriate use of the endorsement.
No Pamphlets In Court
A recent opinion from the South Carolina Advisory Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct:
A summary court judge has inquired as to the propriety of the Summary Court distributing of pamphlet regarding civil justice for crime victims. The pamphlet is published by the National Crime Victim Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Center for Victims of Crime, as indicated on the cover. Two law firms are listed on the back cover, with an acknowledgment of their support. The pamphlet’s purpose is to provide victims with a basic understanding of the civil justice system and explains how a victim can file a civil suit against the alleged perpetrators of a crime.
The inquiring judge also notes that when citizen-affiants come in the office to sign courtesy summons warrants, they often make comments about just wanting to get their property back or monetary reimbursement. At that point, a staff member or magistrate routinely advises these citizens that the purpose of the warrant is criminal prosecution, not for the recovery of property or money. Victims are provided with Victim Impact Statements as required by statute and are advised that they may ask the judge for restitution if the defendant is found guilty. They are also advised that they may file a civil suit, whether or not they pursue a criminal suit, or whether or not the defendant in the criminal suit is found guilty. The judge inquires as to the propriety of advising the citizen-affiants.
The Summary Court may not distribute a pamphlet on the civil justice system for crime victims.
The Summary Court may advise citizens-affiants of the availability of civil proceedings.
Canon 2, Rule 501, SCACR, requires that a judge avoid the appearance of impropriety. Canon 3 requires that a judge perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently. Canon 2B, Rule 501, SCACR, states that “[a] judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others. . . .”
The pamphlet is published by a special interest group, with the assistance of two law firms in South Carolina. The pamphlet advocates civil justice for crime victims. The Summary Court, however, is supposed to be an impartial forum for justice. Thus, distribution of the pamphlet could create the appearance of partiality and impropriety. Furthermore, the Summary Court judge could appear to be advancing the private interest of others by distributing the pamphlet.
With regard to the verbal advice given to citizens-affiants, the Summary Court judge or other court employees may inform citizens-affiants of the differences between criminal and civil proceedings as set forth in the Facts section above, but must take care not to encourage or show preference for either proceeding.
October 14, 2009
Huge Fine For Unauthorized Practice
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court of Ohio today imposed a civil penalty of $6,387,990 against two companies and their co-owners for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and issued an injunction permanently barring those companies, their principals and employees from any future marketing or sale of living trusts or other estate planning documents or services to Ohio residents.
In a 7-0 per curiam decision, the Court found that American Family Prepaid Legal Corporation and Heritage Marketing and Insurance Services Inc., their co-owners, Jeffrey and Stanley Norman, and multiple employees of those firms engaged in more than 3,800 acts of unauthorized law practice by virtue of their participation in a “trust mill” operation from March 2003 through March 2005.
The Court noted that American Family, Heritage, the Normans, and employees of the two companies had been the subject of a prior unauthorized practice of law complaint and investigation by the Columbus Bar Association (CBA) in 2002 that was resolved by the signing of a March 2003 consent agreement. In that agreement, the respondents acknowledged that providing estate planning advice and marketing and preparing trust agreements and other estate planning documents constitutes the practice of law, and promised to permanently cease and desist from such activities in Ohio.
The Court agreed with findings by its Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law that, after signing the 2003 decree, American Family, Heritage and their owners used third-party marketing firms to send direct mail ads to lists of Ohioans 65 and older and also targeted senior citizens with magazine advertising containing exaggerated claims regarding the costs and complications of disposing of their assets through a will. Persons responding to the ads were subjected to high-pressure in-home presentations in which American Family’s non-attorney sales representatives provided them with legal advice including inflated “estimates” of the costs of probating their estates and the purported savings the customer would realize by purchasing American Family’s standardized living trust document – regardless of the size or composition of that individual’s estate or his/her existing estate planning documents.
In rejecting American Family’s claim that its actions were authorized because it had registered as the operator of a “prepaid legal services plan,” the Court wrote: “In arranging these appointments, American Family telemarketers did not refer to a prepaid legal plan and did not inform the customer that he or she would be solicited to buy a prepaid legal plan or living trust. The telemarketers did ask, however, whether the prospect already had a living trust. In sales presentations, usually occurring in a customer’s home, American Family’s agents focused on convincing a customer that he or she needed a living trust. If sold, the customer paid a $1,995 fee purportedly for an array of legal services relative to landlord/tenant law, businesses, domestic relations, bankruptcy, and other legal fields, at discounted fees, from a number of listed Ohio attorneys. Almost exclusively, however, the only legal service that the plan members received was the preparation of a living-trust document and related estate-planning instruments such as powers of attorney and a living will. For this reason, for the thousands of memberships sold, few if any members obtained legal assistance other than a living-trust portfolio.”
The Court noted that despite the fact that American Family used sales persons who had never been licensed as attorneys to “advise” customers about their estate planning needs and persuade them to purchase a trust, and that other non-attorneys in California actually prepared the trust documents, the company attempted to legitimize its unauthorized law practice by passing each transaction through a Columbus attorney, Edward P. Brueggeman. Brueggeman seldom spoke with the customers who were purported to be his “clients,” and was paid a flat fee by American Family for every trust document he approved.
In its decision, the Court wrote: “From the start of his employment until March 2005, Brueggeman had an office within American Family/Heritage offices on Citygate Drive in Columbus. Brueggeman did not pay rent and used the supplies and services provided by American Family and Heritage employees to perform his role. Brueggeman did not hire or supervise the American Family sales agents. Brueggeman, after receiving the agreement, sent a form letter to the purchasers of the plans thanking them for choosing him to prepare their living trusts and their estate-planning documents. The letter also stated that the drafting process would take four to six weeks and invited the customer to call him with questions. … Brueggeman rarely, if ever, actually met an American Family plan member in person.” A formal complaint alleging that Brueggeman’s conduct violated state attorney discipline rules is currently pending before the Board Of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline (Disciplinary Counsel v. Brueggeman, Case No. 08-090).
The Court noted that the “trust mill” operated by American Family, Heritage and the Normans was similar to other such operations that the Court has found to be illegally engaged in the unauthorized practice of law at the expense of vulnerable consumers, usually senior citizens. The Court wrote: “A living-trust package is often not needed and may even be harmful for persons who are without significant assets, who have simple estates, or whose estates may need court supervision. A basic living-trust package, such as those sold by some of the respondents, may likewise be insufficient or even completely inappropriate for those having more substantial assets and who may need specific legal advice or even tax advice to meet their needs. For this reason, we have repeatedly held that these enterprises, in which the laypersons associate with licensed practitioners in various minimally distinguishable ways as a means to superficially legitimize sales of living-trust packages, are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. We have also repeatedly held that by facilitating such sales, licensed lawyers violate professional standards of competence and ethics, including the prohibition against aiding others in the unauthorized practice of law. Today, we reaffirm these holdings and admonish those tempted to profit by such schemes that these enterprises are unacceptable in any configuration.”
In imposing a civil penalty of $6,387,990 jointly and severally against American Family, Heritage and their co-owners, the Court noted the aggravating factors that the respondents had been advised of and acknowledged the illegality of their involvement in the marketing and sale of trusts in the 2003 CBA consent agreement, but shortly thereafter resumed the same activities and engaged in thousands of acts of unauthorized practice that resulted in potential or actual harm to many of their customers for a period of two years. The Court also imposed civil penalties of $10,000 against American Family’s state marketing director, Paul Chiles, $7,500 against office manager Harold Miller, and $2,500 against multiple American Family and Heritage agents who continued to engage in the unauthorized practice of law after signing the 2003 consent agreement.
In its injunction, the Court permanently barred American Family, Heritage, Jeffrey and Stanley Norman, other named parties and “their successors, assigns, subsidiaries and affiliates” from marketing, selling or preparing wills, living trusts, durable powers of attorney, deed transfers or other legal products in Ohio; offering legal advice to anyone concerning estate planning or the execution of legal products; offering or selling prepaid legal plans of any kind to Ohio residents; and from engaging in a wide range of other enumerated activities.
Today’s decision also approved consent decrees entered into by the CBA and two separate sets of parties to resolve contractual issues arising from their participation in the prepaid legal services plan previously operated by American Family.
The court's opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
From the web page of the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:
In early August of this year, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County a civil complaint, therein asking the Honorable Pamela Pryor Dembe, President Judge of that court, to enjoin a disbarred Philadelphia attorney from continuing to practice law. The last time ODC had to take such a drastic step to prevent a disbarred attorney from practicing law was 20 years ago.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Disciplinary Board, which is an agency of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The primary mission of ODC and the Disciplinary Board is to protect the public.
The complaint, which was filed against former attorney Allen L. Feingold, alleged that after his disbarment, Feingold pursued civil claims on behalf of himself and former clients as “co-plaintiffs”; failed to advise clients of his inability to practice law, as required by Supreme Court rules; and, used letterhead in the name of a licensed attorney, Jeffry Pearson, to mail and fax correspondence to lawyers, judges and clients, without Pearson’s knowledge or consent. In addition to requesting injunctive relief, ODC’s complaint requested that Judge Dembe appoint retired Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro to serve as conservator and to take control of the files of Feingold’s former clients.
In March 2006, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Feingold for three years for failing to correct false testimony given by a client during a deposition, instructing an employee in a medical office to falsely say that she could not locate the client-patient’s medical records that had been subpoenaed by opposing counsel, and filing two frivolous lawsuits. In August 2006, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Feingold for two years, to run consecutively to the first suspension, for choking a judge pro tem who had entered a ruling that Feingold did not agree with. Both orders of suspension directed Feingold to comply with rules requiring that he notify clients of his suspension and disengage from the practice of law.
Under disciplinary enforcement rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania attorneys who are on inactive status, administratively suspended, suspended or disbarred are allowed to work in a law office that is staffed on a full-time basis by a supervising attorney who is licensed and in good standing. The rules, however, place significant restrictions on the former attorney. Direct communication with clients and third parties is limited to ministerial matters, such as scheduling and billing, and the former attorney is not allowed to render legal consultation or advice, appear on behalf of a client in court or at a deposition, negotiate a settlement, or handle client funds. A former attorney who is suspended or disbarred is not allowed to work for any law firm or lawyer with whom the former attorney was associated on or after the date on which the acts that resulted in the loss of license occurred, through and including the effective date of the disbarment or suspension.
In June 2007, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court entered an order holding Feingold in contempt for willful violation of the suspension orders and referred the matter to the Disciplinary Board for a hearing to determine the sanction. After finding that Feingold failed to notify clients of his suspensions; failed to withdraw his appearances from cases; continued to engage in “law-related activities;” and, failed to pay costs associated with the proceedings that led to his suspensions, the Disciplinary Board unanimously recommended that Feingold be disbarred. In August 2008, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court disbarred Feingold. The Disciplinary Board’s reports and recommendations to the Supreme Court in the suspension and disbarment matters are available at the Disciplinary Board’s Web site at www.padb.us.
According to the complaint for injunctive relief filed by ODC in the Court of Common Pleas, “there exists no adequate remedy at law to prohibit defendant’s [Feingold’s] conduct and therefore an injunction is necessary and warranted in this matter.”
William Pietragallo, II, Chairman of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of PA, said, “The disciplinary system exists to regulate attorney conduct, and ensure proper action is taken for individuals who don’t follow the rules. While an injunction is very rare, there are times when this drastic measure must be taken in order to protect the public.”
After hearings on several dates, Judge Dembe entered an order on September 2, 2009 enjoining Feingold from engaging in the unlawful practice of law, and an order on September 10, 2009 appointing Justice Nigro to act as conservator “to protect the interests of [Feingold’s] present and former clients.”
Call for Papers: Northwestern U Holding Conference on Law of the Entrepreneur June 2010
CALL FOR PAPERS
SEARLE CENTER - THIRD ANNUAL RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM ON THE ECONOMICS AND LAW OF THE ENTREPRENEUR
Northwestern School of Law -- Thursday, June 17th, 2010 Friday, June 18th, 2010
The Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth is issuing a call for original research papers to be presented at the Third Annual Research Symposium on The Economics and Law of the Entrepreneur at Northwestern University School of Law. The Symposium will run from approximately 12:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 17th, 2010 to 3:00 PM on Friday, June 18th, 2010. The goal of this Research Symposium is to provide a forum where economists and legal scholars can gather together with Northwestern's own distinguished faculty to present and discuss high quality research relevant to the economics and law of the entrepreneur.
Papers for the conference should be submitted to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org . Potential attendees should indicate their interest in receiving an invitation at: email@example.com . Authors will receive an honorarium of $1,200 per paper to cover reasonable transportation expenses. Government employees and non-US residents may be reimbursed for travel expenses up to the honorarium amount. Authors are expected to attend and participate in the full duration of the symposium. If more than one author attends the symposium, the honorarium or travel reimbursement will be divided equally between the attending authors. The Searle Center will make hotel reservations and pay for rooms for authors and discussants for the night of Thursday, June 17th.
October 13, 2009
Thanks To YouAnd especially to Mike. And also to Jeff and Bill. (And to Nancy for her recent post on US News & WR rankings which got reported on yesterday at Legal Blog Watch, asking whether the tail is now wagging the dog.) And to our commenters.
But mainly to You, the visitor and reader. TaxProf Blog reports today that our blog rose in the rankings from this time last year, both as to discrete visitors (now ranked #32) and page views (#31). Here is the quarterly report of all law professor blogs which have a public statmeter, and Paul Caron also shows the percentage increase over the last year. LPB is up 32% in visitors and 29% in page views. Special congratulations, as well, to the Legal Writing Prof Blog, with a whopping increase in page views of 175%, first among the blogs in increase (LPB is 7th by that measure--we'll take it!).
A Light Sanction
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department imposed a reciprocal sanction of publc censure in a case where the attorney had been admonished with terms in Virginia. The misconduct involved the transfer of funds held in a law firm escrow account to a new escrow account in order to defeat a former partner's access to the firm accounts:
... a three-judge court impaneled by the Supreme Court of Virginia convened to hear the matter. Respondent appeared with counsel and contested the charges.By order entered December 13, 2007 the three-judge panel of the Virginia Court found that respondent had violated Rule 1.15(c)(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct by:
(1) removing disputed Ball & Yates partnership funds to the client trust fund account of the Respondent's new law firm, thereby denying a Ball & Yates partner access to the funds and granting the new firm's partners access, without prior or proper authorization from or notice to the Ball & Yates partner, (2) disbursing funds and property without the prior authorization of or notice to the partner, and/or in breach of the partnership agreement, and/or with knowledge of disputes related to the funds and property, (3) ordering a stop-pay on the checks issued to the partner, without prior notice to the partner, and then using the funds without prior notice to or authorization from the partner, and (4) conveying essentially all disputed assets to Respondent's and Respondent's new law firm.
A rather light sanction for such misconduct, in my view. (Mike Frisch)
A Virginia State Bar subcommittee has approved an agreed disposition of a public reprimand with terms. The matter involved allegations against an attorney who had certified bar complaints against a lawyer named Green. The attorney had represented Green in bar matters several years prior to joining the bar's disciplinary subcommittee, where he certified the bar charges against Green.
After Green was suspended for 18 months, he "asserted in multiple bar proceedings that the imposition of the 18 month suspension and his entire disciplinary record were void due to [his former lawyer's] participation..."
Respondent was retained by Green and sent a letter asserting Green's contentions and notifying the former lawyer that if he did not comply with certain demands "it will be clear, sadly, that you have illegally and unethically conspired to destroy [Green], personally and professionally." Respondent admitted that he knew that Green's contentions were false. He conceded a violation of Virginia Disciplinary Rule 3.4 (fairness to opposing parties and counsel). (Mike Frisch)