Sunday, June 27, 2010
The web page of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners has a summary of a recent public reprimand of an attorney for misconduct in course of civil litigation. The attorney represented the defendant. After judgment had been entered against her client and execution proceedings, there were settlement discussions. Some unflattering information surfaced concerning one of the plaintiffs. Then:
By March 2008, settlement negotiations had broken down, and the plaintiffs were prepared to go forward with the sheriff’s sale. In the interim, one of the plaintiffs brought suit against a former lover seeking to enjoin her from filing false reports with criminal authorities alleging that he had raped and sexually abused her. In defense of the lawsuit, the former lover filed an opposition to which she attached e-mails received from the plaintiff. The woman’s allegations and the e-mails were scandalous and embarrassing. On August 31, 2006, the superior court issued a permanent injunction against the woman.
On March 7, 2008, the respondent wrote to plaintiffs’ counsel that she had come across the other lawsuit involving one of the plaintiffs and that including the woman’s allegations and other information in a motion for new trial in the case against the contractor could prove to be “embarrassing.” On March 11, 2008, the respondent wrote to plaintiffs’ counsel that she hoped the plaintiffs had taken the “time to consider the implications of my most recent correspondence” in deciding whether to resolve the matter with the respondent’s client.
The respondent’s conduct in using means that had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass one of the plaintiffs into agreeing to a settlement of the matter involving the respondent’s client violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 4.4 (a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass a third person) and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) and (h) (conduct that adversely reflects on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law.)