Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Estate Of Misconduct

The Ohio Supreme Court web page report:

The Supreme Court of Ohio today indefinitely suspended the law license of [an] Eastlake attorney...for filing an accounting with the Lake County Probate Court falsely stating that he had distributed $19,228 to the guardian of an estate beneficiary, and attaching to that report a receipt on which the purported signature of the guardian had been forged.

The court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that [the attorney], whose license has been under suspension since 2009 for prior misconduct, violated the state disciplinary rules that prohibit an attorney from committing an illegal act that reflects adversely on his honesty or trustworthiness, engaging in conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation, and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

While noting the mitigating factor that [he] had made restitution to the estate beneficiary, the court imposed an indefinite license suspension based on the aggravating factors that he acted with a dishonest motive, caused harm to a vulnerable client, had prior disciplinary violations, and failed to acknowledge the wrongfulness of his conduct or cooperate with disciplinary authorities.

The opinion is linked here. The attorney was serving a suspensio for unrelated misconduct. (MIke Frisch)

June 5, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 4, 2012

"By A Committee Of Responsible Persons"

A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:


1. Must a campaign website state that it is maintained by the committee of responsible persons in support of a judicial candidate’s campaign, so it is clear that the website is not maintained by the candidate personally?

ANSWER: Yes, if the website seeks to solicit campaign funds or attorneys’ publicly stated support.

2. May a website maintained by the committee of responsible persons in support of a judicial candidate’s campaign include a link or other feature to facilitate contributions to the campaign?

ANSWER: The Code of Judicial Conduct does not govern the procedures used in soliciting campaign funds, other than the requirement that it be conducted by the committee of responsible persons.

3. May a website maintained by a committee of responsible persons in support of a judicial candidate’s campaign include an address to which contributions may be mailed to the campaign?

ANSWER: The Code of Judicial Conduct does not govern the procedures used in soliciting campaign funds, other than the requirement that it be conducted by the committee of responsible persons.

(Mike Frisch)


June 4, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Damning Admissions" Support Sanctions Against Attorney

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has affirmed a sanction requiring an attorney to pay over $13,600 in opposing attorney's fees.

The matter involved an elderly couple's transfer of their home to their son. The couple retained an attorney to file for bankruptcy but failed to list the transfer in the bankruptcy documents. A claim of fraud was brought by the trustee, and the son paid approximately $30,000 to settle the claim.

"Angry over the manner in which the bankruptcy proceedings had been handled, [the son] retained [the sanctioned attorney] to file a malpractice claim against [the first attorney]." The suit named both son and parents as plaintiffs; defendants were the first attorney and his spouse.

Defendants filed a motion for sanctions and a hearing was held. "During those hearings, [the sanctioned attorney] made many damning admissions."

He testified that he had done no legal research on five of the six pleaded counts. He never read the statute governing his unauthorized practice count. He admitted that he repleaded claims despite learning that some had no basis and that his practices were consistent with his method here. (Mike Frisch)

June 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fair And Impartial Juror?

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the grant of habeas corpus relief and a new trial of a defendant convicted of two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to consecutive life terms.

Relief had been granted based on the non-disclosure of a juror during voir dire that (i) her son had been indicted and was scheduled to appear before the same trial judge, (ii) the same prosecutor was assigned to handle the case against her son, and (iii)  her son's attorney appeared to have some connection to the case.

The juror averred that she failed to disclose these facts because she "was frightened and intimidated by the trial process and also because she was ashamed of her son's criminal trouble." She claimed she was a "fair, unbiased, and impartial juror" in the trial.

The court majority looked to the juror's affidavit asserting that she was not biased and that "she was more likely to have been sympathetic to the respondent due to the fact that her son had also been arrested and charged with a crime." The majority found that prejudice was not affirmately shown.

Chief Justice Ketchum, joined by Justice McHugh, dissented. He noted that the underlying case had significant legal issues which had split the court on direct appeal. He concludes that the juror issue has "forever tainted" the verdict. (Mike Frisch) 

June 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bankrupt Practices Get Lawyer Disbarred

A disbarment reported in the most recent edition of the California Bar Journal:

[An attorney] was disbarred March 2, 2012, and was ordered to make restitution and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.

[The attorney] stipulated to 34 counts of misconduct in nine matters, most involving bankruptcy. He failed to perform legal services in every case. In the bankruptcy matters, he sometimes failed to file the petitions and other documents, correct deficiencies or appear at hearings. In a breach of contract action, [he] did not respond to or oppose motions or appear at hearings. He failed to provide documentation to a lender in a foreclosure action.

In one matter, [his] office administrator told a couple facing foreclosure that a Chapter 13 bankruptcy would help keep them in their home. [He] filed a bankruptcy petition but did not file the required documents and the case was dismissed. The office administrator told the clients not to worry because [he] would take care of the dismissal. Their home was sold in a foreclosure sale and the buyer filed an unlawful detainer. [He] did not file a response or provide a refund to the clients. Instead, he said he would file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition but did not do so.

In other matters, [he] did not account for or refund unearned fees, respond to client inquiries, report sanctions to the bar or cooperate with the bar’s investigation, and he aided others in the unauthorized practice of law and committed acts of moral turpitude by disobeying court orders. He was ordered to make restitution of almost $25,000.

He was publicly reproved in 2004 for commingling funds in his trust account and failing to properly maintain or deposit funds. In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and was suffering severe financial stress as a result of the dissolution of his marriage.

(Mike Frisch)

June 4, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Client Bound By Fee Arbitration Result

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a fee arbitration award to a law firm that had sued a client for unpaid bills.

The client had asked for arbitration and had not initially raised a statute of limitations (six years) defense. The court here found that the client had sought the arbitration, Bar Counsel had properly referred the matter to a panel, and the client was bound by the unfavorable result.

Any defense under the statute of limitations was waived. (Mike Frisch)

June 4, 2012 in Billable Hours, Clients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Interim Suspension For Non-Cooperation

The Louisiana Supreme Court has denied the petition of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") to impose interim suspension of an attorney who has been charged in one matter with neglect-type violations.

The ODC sought suspension for failure to cooperate with its investigation od a series of similar complaints. The court ordered a hearing to address ODC's concern. The hearing committee found that the attorney had failed to cooperate in some matters.

The court noted that the attorney's failures were due, at least in part, to her obligations to clients. While she could have been "more diligent" in her dealings with ODC, the conduct was not contumacious.

The court did not opine on whether the conduct amounted to a disciplinary violation. Rather, the court concludes that the non-cooperation did not rise to a level of misconduct that would support an interim suspension.

The court ordered her to provide the information sought by ODC within 30 days.

Justice Victory would grant the petition. (MIke Frisch)

June 4, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Angola 5 Attorney Suspended For Arrest At Penitentiary

The Louisiana Supreme Court granted a joint suspension petition of an the Office of DIsciplinary Counsel and an attorney arrested in February 2012.

CBS 9 WAFB reported on the arrest:

East Baton Rouge Parish public defender Nelvil Hollingsworth was arrested Saturday afternoon at Angola State Penitentiary.

Investigators with the West Feliciana Sheriff's Office say Hollingsworth hid 5.2 grams of marijuana in the lining of his suit jacket in an effort to sneak the drugs into the prison.

Angola Warden Burl Cain said a prison guard found the drugs during a routine pat down.  He said Hollingsworth was then detained until deputies arrived to make the arrest.

Hollingsworth was charged with one count of introduction of contraband into a penal institution. A West Feliciana jail official said Hollingsworth posted a $10,000 bond this afternoon.

Cain said Hollingsworth called prison officials Friday night to arrange the Saturday visit with his client Barry Edge.  Edge is one of the "Angola 5" on trial for the beating and stabbing death of Angola guard David Knapps back in 1999.

Reached by telephone, Hollingsworth told 9News he had no comment at this time. 

(Mike Frisch)

June 3, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)