Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Attorney Possessed By Client's Deceased Wife

I thought that I had seen just about everything in the area of attorney misconduct, but a hearing officer's report from Arizona proves me wrong or at least lacking in imagination. 

The hearing officer has recommended a six month and one day suspension of an attorney who, while in an intimate relationship with a client involving his late wife's estate, "claimed to be able to convey the thoughts of the deceased wife to the client." The attorney also was charged with falsely denying in a bar proceeding that "she had  ever 'channeled' the thoughts of a deceased person to a client."

The attorney met the client while taking ballroom dancing lessons from him. She was retained to handle his divorce, but that representation terminated upon the wife's suicide. The attorney channeled the wife for three years, until she and the client stopped dancing together and parted ways.

Hearing Officer Coker (who always seems to get the interesting cases) found that the attorney made a false statement and notes:

...it is not up to this Hearing Officer to decide whether in fact Respondent was or was not truly possessed by and speaking for [the client's] deceased wife. Respondent believed it, [the client] believed it, as did at least two other independent people who witnessed it. Given all of this, it is hard to believe that Respondent schemed and connived to make all this up. Once it happened, it is certainly possible that Respondent got carried away with all the attention she received as a result of it and either embellished or exaggerated. On the other hand, Respondent could have genuinely believed in and felt controlled by circumstances.

A review of [the evidence] shows that having the spirit of [the client's] deceased wife within her was not an entirely pleasant experience for Respondent and the degree of her voluntary participation in it simply cannot be determined. The experts...cannot even agree on what was going on.

The sanction was proposed in light of the unique facts of the case. The attorney had once owned a new age boutique and given tarot readings.

As I said at the outset, this is the first case I have seen that illustrates the dangers of mixing spiritualism and law. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2010/08/i-thought-that-i-had-seen-just-about-everything-in-the-area-of-attorney-misconduct-but-a-hearing-officers-report-from-arizon.html

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Comments

This is an interesting case. The sex with client issue was resolved in favor of the lawyer - the lawyer benefitted from a lovely clear and convincing evidence standard. What amazes me is the short suspension given that the lawyer wrote herself into the will of one client (? I think that's what happened). Equally amazing was the reluctance of the disciplinary authority to recognize spiritualism as the fraud that it is. I think I will send this case to the folks at "Sceptic" magazine.

Posted by: Rick Underwood | Sep 2, 2010 8:27:41 AM

Why did the lawyer try exorcism? Would it be inappropriate (establishment clause) for a bar or court official to suggest exorcism? make it condition of readmission?>

Posted by: Dennis Tuchler | Sep 5, 2010 2:03:11 PM

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