Monday, August 27, 2012

When Laypersons are Smarter Than Lawyers

In the District of Columbia, a disciplinary hearing committee consists of two lawyers and one layperson.

Sometimes the layperson disagrees with the lawyer members of a committee. In such circumstance,s it is often quite revealing to explore the disagreement.

Such a case is In re Stephen T. Yelverton, posted recently at this link. You must search by name to access the report.

The case involves the conduct of an experienced attorney with no prior discipline. He represented the alleged victim of a simple assault. The defendant was tried in a non-jury trial and acquitted by the judge.

The alleged misconduct involved the entirely unsuccessful efforts of the attorney to challenge the verdict in the trial court and on appeal. Both courts ruled that the attorney lacked standing to file his barrage of motions and pleadings.

Bar Counsel charged that the attorney with incomptent representation and pursuing frivolous claims. The hearing committee majority found that it was a "very difficult case" but found no misconduct.

The layperson was less professsionally understanding: dissent as expressed in this document is largely based on my concern that a member of the public requiring legal assistance, having no understanding of the legal issues and complexities attendant to their particulat case and no knowleged of Respondent's previous actions in this case would retain Respondent and receive legal advice, counsel and representation equivalent to that provided by Respondent in this case....

...I believe that Respondent's misconduct is serious because he pursued a strategy that objectively had no chance of success. This was not an isolated incident of misconduct, or an instance in which a lawyer erred in maling a single filing, but later thought better of it. Rather, Respondent continued his meritless pursuit of a mistrial as far as he could pursue it. In the process, he burdened the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals with motions that had absolutely no merit. He similarly burdened the Hearing Committee with meritless and untimely filings, made even after the Hearing Committee Chair ordered that he make no further filings.

 The dissenting layperson would impose a suspension with fitness for the attorney's "uninformed, overly zealous and possibly 'obsessional' " behavior.

Nice that someone in the disciplinary system sees things from the point of view of a prospective client. Too bad that view cannot command a majority.  (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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