Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Costs Of Costs

An Arizona Hearing Officer has recommended a censure and probation of an attorney for issues relating to a wrongful death case. The attorney admitted to charging for estimated rather than actual costs, charging unreasonable costs and charging compound interest without notifying the client in writing.

The attorney also admitted to misconduct that appeared to be the opposite of the above, seemingly selfish, behavior by providing financial assistance to the client. The payments involved giving the client money to repair her car, payment of one month of a cell phone bill, money for clothing and a hair appointment to look appropriate for a mediation session, cash for a grave marker for the client's son and money to avoid eviction. The attorney did not charge the client interest on these payments.

The hearing officer found the attorney was negligent in the violations. She was "candid and generally remorseful regarding her professional conduct violations....Respondent came to realize that despite good intentions, her financial assistance was negligent and that such negligence can lead to self interest in a litigated case." In her words:

But mostly what I have recognized that no matter how much I like a client, you cannot give them any money....And I feel really bad that it's been a long process to bring me to that realization that these rules are there for a reason and if someone violates it for a suit [of clothing] they'll violate it for Cadillac.

While I rarely identify an attorney by name, a last-name identification seems appropriate given that the attorney's name is Virtue. (Mike Frisch)


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