July 1, 2011
Only In California--Beyond Atkins And Rin Tin Tin
More from this month's California Bar Journal:
[An attorney] was suspended for 18 months, stayed, placed on three years of probation with a 30-day actual suspension and he was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. The order took effect May 14, 2011.
[the attorney] successfully completed the Alternative Discipline Program after stipulating to misconduct in two matters. He demonstrated a connection between his mental health issues and his misconduct.
He stipulated that in one matter he breached his duty of confidentiality and asked a client to withdraw his complaint with the State Bar as a condition for settling his case, and in the second matter he failed to avoid representing adverse interests.
[The attorney] represented Douglas Markham, who wrote a book called “Beyond Atkins.” As the book gained national prominence, [he] did more work and agreed to be paid with 10 percent of the revenue generated by his client’s health project, less printing costs for the book. When Markham discovered he had not properly credited other authors whose material he included in the book, [the attorney] said he would correct the oversight in the next printing. [The attorney] contends the oversight was not inadvertent and could have been corrected through footnotes.
Markham fired [the attorney], who, the next day, emailed 16 business associates indicating that he had terminated the relationship for reasons he could not disclose. He said he did not want to be associated with Markham or his book and referred the email recipients to the material that had not been properly credited. However, Markham had not waived attorney-client confidentiality and [his] actions caused him embarrassment.
Markham sued [the attorney] for malpractice, breach of contract and interference with contract, a complaint that eventually was settled without any monetary payment. However, [the attorney] required that as part of the settlement, Markham withdraw his complaint to the State Bar.
In the other matter, [the attorney] represented a Hollywood producer who planned to produce a documentary about Rin Tin Tin, and at the same time represented the individuals who hired the producer. Although he acknowledged in the fee agreement that conflicts might develop, he didn’t advise his clients to seek independent legal advice.
He eventually represented the producer in a lawsuit filed against one of the individuals who had originally hired the producer. [He] eventually recommended that the producer hire a different lawyer.
[He] cooperated with the bar’s investigation and had no discipline record since his 1983 admission to the bar.
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