Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Offer An Attorney Can't Refuse

The Delaware Supreme Court has imposed a public reprimand of an attorney for a series of letters and actions designed to decline appointments in Family Court matters.

The court adopted and appended the findings of the Board on Professional Responsibility, which noted:

...in all three appointments at issue in this ODC complaint, the court appointed the Respondent, giving him the option to obtain substitute counsel. The Respondent instead asked the Court to be allowed to withdraw as counsel. The Court denied Respondent's request. The Respondent wrote the Court, asking that the Court state on the record and to the client that the Court was appointing, essentially, ineffective counsel. In two of the cases where the Court still did not do as the Respondent wished, the Respondent contacted the client and told the client that he was, essentially, wrong for the part, but the Court was going to make him, an inexperienced, unskilled attorney, represent the client anyway, and then told the Court what he told his client. In one case an indigent client's mother retained private counsel. In each case the Respondent sought to avoid the appointment, and persisted after his motion was denied.

The attorney also tried this argument: "Even though a foot surgeon and brain surgeon are both doctors, you would not want a foot surgeon to perform your brain surgery."

His practice focus was the the area of business law, although he had some prior Family Court experience.

The board rejected the suggestion that the confidentiality of the bar proceeding was violated, although the attorney's "unique style of correspondence and continued efforts to avoid appointment could have been the subject of courthouse chatter..."

The board found that a presentation to bar members about the duty to accept appointments did not identify the attorney, who had not been "publicly pilloried" as his counsel had suggested. (Mike Frisch)


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This is the most interesting case that I’ve read in a long time. Fun to see the issues all being turned on their heads.

Rule 3.5(d), which only applies to physical acts, clearly wasn’t violated. The ODC’s ruling on 6.2 appears to directly conflict with the attorney’s right to be heard by “criminalizing” the mere filing of a motion seeking relief. And the attorney’s actions clearly do not fit within the seriousness of R. 8.4(d) as evidenced by his only receiving a reprimand.

In the end, this is a results based case. Judges were embarrassed (as well they should be) and the ODC clearly knew where it was supposed to come out on this case and so bent the rules to fit.

This is really a first amendment case. The attorney should be given a medal.


Posted by: Stephen Williams | Jun 19, 2012 12:44:57 PM

Good and fun article here

Posted by: Kailey Collins Estate Planning Center | Jun 22, 2012 3:57:39 AM

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