Friday, June 29, 2012

When An Estate Attorney Dies

If one had practiced trust and estate law for over 50 years, you would think that his own estate would be in order when he passed away.

Not always, as shown by a decision issued today by the New Jersey Appellate Division.

The attorney died in 2009. He had no direct descendants. His late brother had three children.The attorney was close to only one of the three. He had expressed an intent over the years to leave his estate to that one nephew.

When he died, the favored nephew searched his office and home for a will. He found "clutter" and "a mess" in both places. He also found (at the home) a copy of an unexecuted document expressing testamentary intent in his favor. No executed original of that document or any other will has been found.

The favored nephew offered the document in probate. His siblings objected.

The court here found that the document expressed the deceased's intent and affirmed its admission into probate. The document had been prepared when the decedent was about to undergo life-threatening surgery.

A dissent would not admit it.

The court declined to impose any sanctions against the siblings for frivolous litigation. (Mike Frisch)

June 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Goodbye, Mr. Eisenberg, We Have Another Eisenberg

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has imposed a public reprimand of an attorney admitted in 1960 in a matter that arose from the "contentious dissolution" of a law firm.

The attorney was found in violation of the rule prohibiting covenants not to compete and misleading the public.

The issues involved a named partner named Eisenberg. The reprimanded attorney caused the firm's offices to move without notice to Mr. Eisenberg, who was then told that there was "no office space for him, that he should go home, and that his paychecks would be sent to him."

But the Eisenberg name lived on at the firm:

After the move to the new office and until March 2005, the firm continued to display in the client waiting area a framed photo of former Green Bay Packer football player Reggie White which contained the handwritten statement:

Happy birthday Mr. Alvin Eisenberg.  Thank you for your caring heart.  You are a Humble man.  May our Lord Jesus the Son of Jehovah God Bless You.  Reggie White # 92[.] 1 Cor. 13.

On March 3, 2005, the firm, still using the Eisenberg name, entered into an agreement with a lawyer named Donald S. Eisenberg.  At the time, Donald Eisenberg was engaged in an "of counsel" relationship with a Madison law firm and was not affiliated with the firm in any way.  Donald Eisenberg was never a shareholder or an employee of the firm.  Pursuant to the agreement, Donald Eisenberg was paid a flat sum of $1,500 per month, with no FICA deductions or tax withholdings from the payments, as long as he maintained a license to practice law, whether or not he did anything for the firm.  He spent little time in the firm's office.

The firm then affixed a name plate stating "Mr. Eisenberg" on an office door at the new office.

The court majority rejected a charge that the attorney's bonus arrangement with firm paralegals violated the fee-splitting with a nonlawyer probition:

To determine whether this bonus system runs afoul of SCR 20:5.4 we consider the original intent of rule, which is to protect a lawyer's exercise of independent professional judgment.  Arguably, a paralegal always has some interest in maximizing the lawyer's fee income because the paralegal indirectly receives compensation generated from attorney's fees which are, themselves, generated by recoveries by clients.  In that respect, however, the paralegal is no different than every nonlawyer employee of every law firm whose income is principally derived from contingent fee recoveries.

We do not have specifics about the number of cases this paralegal works on, but the record indicates this is a high volume legal practice.  Based on the evidence presented we find no indication that the paralegal would be interfering with the lawyer's independent judgment.  We emphasize that the law firm has a general duty, and the paralegal's lawyer-supervisor has a specific duty, to ensure that the paralegal's conduct is compatible with the ethical obligations of lawyers.  However, we conclude that the rule, as drafted, does not preclude the bonus structure described in this case.  Accordingly, we dismiss the third count of the complaint related to the bonus structure used to compensate certain paralegals.

Two justices dissented and would uphold the fee-splitting charge. (Mike Frisch)

June 29, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tangled Web Alleged

The North Carolina State Bar has filed a complaint alleging misconduct in his representation of two clients.

The complaint contends that the attorney was retained by client EPV to sue defendant LTH as a result of a car accident. It is alleged that the attorney not only represented LTH in three unrelated matters while the EPV suit was pending without the knowledge or consent of EPV, but also engaged in sexual relations with LTH.

The complaint states that the attorney advised EPV of the conflict when he presented her with a settlement check. (Mike Frisch)

June 29, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"A Dose Of The Middle Age Crazies"

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded and placed on probation an attorney as a result of criminal assaults on two women.

The court described the incidents, which took place in September and November 2010:

Corrales was divorced and raising his three children. In the summer of 2009, he met Kimberly Leonard, a twenty-three year old woman who began helping him out with his seven-year-old daughter. They dated and began living together in December of 2009. Corrales testified that his son had been very active in sports activities such as football, wrestling and baseball, and that he had been kept very busy for many years following him or coaching him. When his son graduated in May of 2010, the Respondent found himself with a "lull" in his life and he tried to fill it by pursuing "the wrong avenue." Judge McCall stated that, in his opinion, this was "a dose of the middle age crazies." He did not think it has affected the Respondent's ability to be a good lawyer.

Corrales was a candidate for legislative office for the November 2010 election and he was formerly a municipal judge in Lawton.  The cases generated an enormous amount of publicity. The Trial Panel questioned the Respondent about the incidents. Kimberly Leonard told the police that she and the Respondent were arguing in the car on September 22, 2010, and that he became angry and struck her head against the dash four times and that when she tried to exit the vehicle, he pulled her back in. A day after the misdemeanor charge was filed, Kimberly Leonard recanted her story by letter  to the District Attorney, Fred Smith, stating that she had mixed prescription medicine and alcohol that evening and that she became upset and tried to persuade Corrales to stop and let her out of the car, but he refused, saying that it wasn't safe. As he slowed to turn into a housing addition, she opened the door and jumped from the vehicle, hitting her head and scraping her elbows and shoulder.

When questioned about the altercation at Gert's Pub & Grub on November 16, 2010, Corrales stated that a man followed Kimberly Leonard to the restroom and attempted to go in the women's restroom. When Kimberly returned, she began berating the man who came into the bathroom and the man's sister jumped up and started yelling at Kimberly. Corrales was returning from the restroom and tried to break them up. He grabbed the woman and a bouncer grabbed Kimberly to pull them apart. The woman's girlfriend was bartending and jumped over the bar and began attacking Corrales. Corrales stated that he doesn't really remember what happened because he blacked out, but there is no doubt in his mind that he fought with them and did what he was charged with.

The attorney was evaluated by a psychiatrist, who concluded that he did not have an ongoing anger management issue but should avoid both hard liquor and Ms. Leonard. He had entered an Alford plea the first incident and a no contest plea to the second.

Chief Justice Taylor, joined by Justice Combs, dissented and would order a suspension. (Mike Frisch)

June 28, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Heather Lane Is In My Ears And In My Eyes

The Florida Supreme Court has rejected a referee's proposed public censure and suspended an attorney for one year.

The attorney's misconduct involved the purchase of residential property in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The property was known as Heather Lane.

The attorney formed an entity to purchase and manage the property. He was the sole owner of the entity, which bought the property and leased it to his client (who was the one initially interested in the purchase). When the attorney had financial difficulties, he transferred the property to himself without payment of any consideration.

The conveyance was found to be fraudulent by both a bankruptcy court and by the referee. The transfer was intended to defraud the seller.

The court cites the Scott Rothstein case for the proposition that "basic fundamental dishonesty" is a serious character flaw  whether or not it takes place in the context of an attorney-client relationship. (Mike Frisch)

June 28, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Take A Paralegal To Lunch Today

The highly informative web page of the North Dakota Supreme Court reports that Governor Jack Dalrymple has issued a proclamation declaring that today is Legal Assistant Day in the State.

Citizens are asked to recognize that paralegals "make an important contribution to their profession and workplace, and North Dakotans are encouraged to recognize the significant role they play in the legal process of our state and nation." (Mike Frisch)

June 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Model For Other Bars To Follow

To expand on my praise of the North Carolina State Bar's access to information concernng pending disciplinary matters, here's a look at the page for the case against the former Durham County District Attorney. It has everything an interested citizen needs (and has the right ) to know about the proceedings.

 

DHC Schedule Status
Scheduled
Defendant Name
Cline, Tracey E.
Defendant Location
Durham, NC
Defendant File Number
12 DHC 22
Staff Attorney
Katherine Jean
Scheduled Date
10/1-5/12
Scheduled Time
10:00 a.m.
Scheduled Courtroom
Campbell University School of Law Courtroom
DHC Panel Members
Alexander (Chair)
Davis
RAY

Documents Available:


Title: Date Posted: Time Posted:
View Complaint -NCSB v. Tracey E. Cline 5/25/2012 4:18:34 PM
View Motion for Extension to Respond to Complaint 6/27/2012 10:31:54 AM
View Order Granting Extension to Respond to Complaint 6/27/2012 10:34:43 AM

June 28, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judges Judging Judges In Wisconsin

Justice N. Patrick Crooks had denied a motion to recuse himself in judicial disciplinary proceedings against Justice David Prosser:

Given this court's critical role in judicial discipline proceedings as the only forum available to make a final determination and the involvement or recusal of at least three other justices on this court, I view my decision on Justice Prosser's motion for recusal in light of the Rule of Necessity and my duty to sit in cases. 

 Justice Prosser asserts that I am disqualified pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 757.19(2)(b) and (g), and SCR 60.04(4) of the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct.  I have carefully considered all of the arguments raised by Justice Prosser in his recusal motion.  As required by Wis. Stat. § 757.19(2)(g), I have made a subjective determination that I can act impartially in this matter.  See State v. Am. TV and Appliance of Madison, Inc., 151 Wis. 2d 175, 182-83, 443 N.W.2d 662 (1989).  I believe that I could be fair in judging the allegations against Justice Prosser and would act in an impartial manner. 

 I have also determined I am not disqualified from participating under the objective standard in SCR 60.04(4).  In regard to the first incident, I am confident that a reasonable person could not question my ability to be impartial in this matter.  I was not present during the incident between Justices Prosser and Bradley.  I am not, under such circumstances, a material witness under Wis. Stat. § 757.19(2)(b).  While I have heard different versions of what transpired during this incident, I have not heard anyone testify under oath about what took place.  Therefore, I believe that I could hear the allegations pertaining to the first incident under the objective standard of SCR 60.04(4).  Under the objective standard, I conclude that it appears that I can act in an impartial manner.

 In regard to the second incident, I also believe that a reasonable person would not question my ability to act as an impartial adjudicator.  While I was present after the closed conference when Justice Prosser made this statement to the Chief Justice, I have not heard any explanation by Justice Prosser as to why he made that statement.  In his answer to the complaint he admitted that he made the statement.  I am not, under such circumstances, a material witness under Wis. Stat. § 757.19(2)(b).  Additionally, I have not heard any testimony under oath about this incident.  I recognize that the second incident might raise more concerns than the first from an objective observer about my ability to remain impartial, but I am confident that my presence when this statement was made would not affect my ability to decide the matter fairly and impartially.

(Mike Frisch)

June 28, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Pervasive Dishonesty" Leads To Permanent Disbarment

The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports:

The Supreme Court of Ohio has permanently revoked the law license of Cleveland attorney William M. Crosby for engaging in a pattern of misconduct that included a felony conviction for failing to file federal income tax returns from 2001 through 2006, commingling his own funds with funds held for clients in his law office trust account to conceal income from the IRS, and billing clients in a civil lawsuit for $30,000 in claimed litigation expenses when actual documented expenses in the case were only half that amount.

In a 7-0 per curiam decision announced today, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that Crosby violated, among others, the state disciplinary rules that prohibit an attorney from engaging in illegal conduct involving moral turpitude; conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice;  and conduct that reflects adversely on the attorney’s fitness to practice law.

In finding that the appropriate sanction for his current misconduct was permanent disbarment, the court noted the aggravating factors that Crosby’s license has been under suspension since 2009 for prior disciplinary rule violations, and that he harmed vulnerable clients, acted with a selfish and dishonest motive, made false and misleading statements during the disciplinary process, and failed to make any restitution toward a $314,000 award obtained against him by the IRS.

The court wrote: “Crosby lied to the IRS, the bankruptcy trustee, his clients, the courts, and disciplinary counsel. His pervasive dishonesty, combined with his misappropriation of client funds, compels us to permanently disbar Crosby from the practice of law in Ohio.

The court noted that some of the attorney's clients were vulnerable persons "who apparently were abused not only by a priest, but by the lawyer they trusted to right the wrongs that had been done to them as children."

The opinion is linked here. (MIke Frisch)

June 28, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No Privilege Waiver For New Counsel's "Ill Advised" Statements

A recent opinion from the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department holds:

In this personal injury action arising from a pedestrian knockdown,
plaintiff's prior counsel moved for a hearing on the amount of the charging
lien, if any, that the firm was entitled to. Opposing that motion, incoming
counsel made allegations of misconduct, and argued that the alleged misconduct
should result in prior counsel's loss of any lien. At the close of a sealed ex
parte hearing, at which plaintiff testified, Justice Williams determined that
incoming counsel's allegations were unfounded and directed that a hearing on the
amount of prior counsel's lien would be held at the resolution of the case. In
subsequent motion practice, wherein outgoing counsel sought an order reducing
Justice Williams' oral directives to a signed order, defendants demanded a copy
of the transcript, arguing that they were entitled to any information which may
show that plaintiff's deposition testimony was inaccurate or incomplete.

Plaintiff did not waive her attorney-client privilege here by placing her
communications "at issue.". Plaintiff's communications with prior counsel were raised only in the context of a fee dispute between attorneys, which had nothing to do with her suit against defendants. Further, there is no evidence that plaintiff consented to, or was even aware of, incoming counsel's ill-advised statements, made solely for the purpose of freeing the file of any charging lien, and not in furtherance of his client's claim or interests.

Similarly, plaintiff's attorney-client privilege was not waived under the
crime-fraud exception, since the motion court, following a hearing, determined that no such misconduct had occurred. Any inquiry into whether the court improperly exercised its discretion in reaching that conclusion is precluded by the fact that this Court was not provided with a copy of the sealed transcript for review. It was defendants' obligation, as appellants, to assemble a proper record on appeal, including taking the initiative to make the sealed transcript available to this Court. Similarly, a determination as to whether third parties may have been present,
defeating plaintiff's privilege, an argument defendants themselves admit is
speculative, is impossible to reach absent a review of the transcript of the
hearing. (citations omitted)

(Mike Frisch)

June 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Back To School

The South Carolina Supreme Court imposed a suspension of three years in a matter involving multiple counts of ethical violations.

In addition to a number of client-related matters, the attorney had written a trust account check for $250 to the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service. She asserted that there were no client funds in the account at the time.

As conditions of reinstatement, the attorney must pay costs and complete the Legal Ethics and Practice Program Ethics school, Trust Account school and Advertising school. (Mike Frisch)

June 27, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ethics Rule Changes Proposed In D.C.

The web page of the District of Columbia Bar reports:

The District of Columbia Bar Board of Governors submitted recommendations for
amendments to select D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct to Chief Judge Eric T.
Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals. On June 12, the Board of Governors
unanimously approved the proposed amendments as recommended and set forth in the final report of the Rules of Professional Conduct Review Committee dated March 2012.

The proposed amendments affect the following D.C. Rules:

  • Rule 1.10—Imputed Disqualification
  • Rule 1.15—Safekeeping of Property
  • Rule 7.1—Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

The Board also recommends adoption of a new Rule 8.6—Disclosing Substantial
Exculpatory Information About a Convicted Person.

The Bar is requesting that the Court of Appeals delay the effective date of
any amended rules for at least four months after the date of adoption to allow
Bar members to become familiar with the proposed changes.

Members can view Proposed
Amendments to Selected Rules of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct
and
letter to Chief Judge Eric T. Washington for detailed information.

Of particular interest is a proposed new rule (designated as Rule 8.6) requiring any lawyer (not only criminal prosecutors) who "knows of information that raises a substantial question about the innocence of a convicted person [to] disclose that information" to the court where the conviction was obtained, the chief prosecutor of the jurisdiction, the defendant's attorney and the defendant.

The proposed changes may be found at this link. (Mike Frisch)

June 27, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Marital And Disciplinary Troubles Lead To Censure

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has imposed a public censure of an attorney:

 Respondent graduated from the Oklahoma City University, School of Law in 2002.
He was admitted to the Oklahoma Bar Association and his name was entered on the
Roll of Attorneys in 2004, upon his successful completion of the Oklahoma Bar
Examination. At all times relevant to this complaint, Respondent has been duly
licensed to practice law in this State, and has never been disciplined by this
Court.

Upon admission to the OBA, Respondent worked for a medical malpractice
defense firm for two years. In 2006, Respondent and his family moved to Hugo,
Oklahoma, his hometown, and established a solo practice. While there, Respondent
established the firms's operating and IOLTA Trust Accounts at First United Bank.
Respondent's wife...had signatory authority on the business'
operating account.

Respondent employed Wife, as the office manager. Wife assisted with
client intake and managed all of the firm's banking matters-including,
reconciling Respondent's operating and trust accounts. Respondent also employed
a number of secretarial staff at different times.

In 2007, Respondent and his wife began experiencing marital problems. In
addition, the couple struggled with the recent loss of a child. In December
2007, Respondent filed for divorce and removed Wife's name from the business'
operating account. Wife and the parties' children moved out of the marital home.
The Hills' later reconciled and dismissed the divorce action in January, 2008.
Shortly thereafter, Wife instituted a subsequent divorce proceeding and left
with the couple's children.

During this turbulent time in the couple's marriage, Respondent began
suffering from depression. In August 2008, Respondent checked himself into
Valley Hope, an inpatient treatment center in Cushing, Oklahoma. However, he was
subsequently released because the inpatient program was restricted to treating
individuals with substance abuse problems. So, in September 2008, Respondent
relocated to Oklahoma City and entered the Lawyers Helping Lawyers program. Yet,
Respondent's practice remained open. All the while, Wife continued to manage
Respondent's practice and oversee the firm's operating and trust accounts. In so
doing, Wife, along with various secretarial staff, began writing checks on the
firm's operating and trust accounts without Respondent's knowledge or consent.
It is against this canvas of unfortunate events that the...grievances
were lodged.

The court agreed with the Professional Responsibility Tribunal that the attorney had not misappropriated client funds:

The PRT determined and we agree, that the OBA has failed to establish, by clear
and convincing evidence, that Respondent intended to either convert or
misappropriate client funds. Rather, the record demonstrates Respondent gave
control of his client trust account to his office manager, and then failed to
supervise the office manager, examine the records or bank statements. As
previously stated, Respondent's failure to supervise the management of the
account, or to check the records, permitted a substantial client's check to be
endorsed by his staff and then mis-deposited and commingled with his personal
funds. In addition, the record reveals that despite Respondent's repeated
demands on the bank to deny Wife access to the business's accounts, the bank
nonetheless continued to cash checks signed by Wife. Although Respondent, on
occasion, was not the actor, the acts of his staff, nonetheless, are imputed to
his own doing. It is as if Respondent committed the act himself. Respondent's
failure, however, may be traced back to his debilitating medical condition. Of
equal importance is the fact that upon discovering Wife's mismanagement of the
office finances, Respondent employed a CPA to review the firm's records, changed
the firm's bank account numbers, and changed the locks to his office on several
occasions. This Court is satisfied with the PRT's finding that Respondent merely
commingled client funds.

(Mike Frisch)

June 27, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bumper Stickers And Judicial Ethics

A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:

ISSUES

If a judicial candidate knows that:  (1) a supporter is displaying the judicial  candidate’s campaign sign on the supporter’s vehicle, (2) the supporter also is  displaying a partisan candidate’s campaign sign on the supporter’s vehicle, and  (3) the judicial candidate could have the supporter remove the judicial  candidate’s campaign sign from the supporter’s vehicle, must the judicial  candidate do so?

ANSWER: Yes, if the supporter is an employee or official who  serves at the pleasure of the candidate. But if the supporter is an employee or  official subject to the candidate’s direction and control, the candidate is  merely required to discourage the supporter from such conduct.  If the supporter is neither of these, the  candidate is not required to take action but the committee would urge the  candidate to do so.

(Mike Frisch)

June 27, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Foregone Conclusion

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ordered license revocation and restitution in a bar discipline matter where a referee had found:

...the referee noted, among other things, Attorney Stange's repeated lack of candor
with courts, clients, estate beneficiaries, and his fellow attorneys; the
significant delays caused by Attorney Stange's late, incomplete, and
inconsistent responses to the OLR; the particular vulnerability of many of
Attorney Stange's clients and their beneficiaries, including charitable
organizations; Attorney Stange's indifference to making his victims whole; and
the similarity between the misconduct involved in this case and that involved in
Attorney Stange's 1997 private reprimand for failing to timely prepare and file
required documentation in several estate proceedings.  The referee also noted that although Attorney Stange's decision to plead no contest to all charges eliminated the need for a
lengthy and difficult hearing, there was little doubt of what the outcome of such a hearing would have been given the vast documentary evidence of misconduct assembled by the OLR.  The referee also noted that Attorney Stange's excuses for his conduct—the time and financial stresses of his solo practice and his mother's medical problems——were not sufficiently unique or compelling as to constitute mitigating factors.  Finally, the referee noted that there appears to be no other disciplinary case with misconduct this severe that did not result in license revocation.

The court on sanction:

We agree with the referee that Attorney Stange's misconduct warrants the
revocation of his Wisconsin law license.  Attorney Stange's mishandling of client matters, his misappropriation of client funds, his pattern of dishonesty, and his failure to fully and forthrightly cooperate with the OLR demonstrate that he does not appreciate the obligations that apply to an individual who has been granted a Wisconsin law license.  By his deceitful, dishonest, and unprofessional conduct, Attorney Stange has forfeited the privilege of practicing law in this state.

(Mike Frisch)

June 27, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Chief Legal Officer Charged

Cincinnatti.com reports:

A Mason attorney who served as the chief legal officer for Fujitec America, Inc. is now facing legal troubles of his own.

A Warren County grand jury Friday indicted Darren Courtney, 48, for allegedly stealing more than $180,000 from his employer.

Prosecutors say that Courtney took the cash from the Mason-based company between 2010 and February of this year.  He then altered company records to conceal the crime, according to the indictment.

Courtney, who now runs his own law firm, served as chief legal and administrative officer for Fujitec America, according to a company profile on Fujitec’s website. He had been with the company for 13 years.

The company manufactures and supplies elevators, escalators and moving walkway systems.

As part of his job duties, Courtney was responsible for resolving claims, or lawsuits, against Fujitec, said Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell.

Courtney allegedly “created” claims from around the country and would then have Fujitec issue checks to law firms purportedly representing the claimants in efforts to settle those claims.

Neither the claims nor the law firms actually existed, said Fornshell.

Instead, Courtney is accused of opening up accounts with local banks in the names of the phony law firms and cashing more than $150,000 in settlement checks he instructed Fujitec to issue.

He is also charged with creating fraudulent expenses of more than $30,000 and charging those to the company.

Courtney has been charged with two counts of theft, telecommunications fraud and tampering with records, all felonies of the third degree. He faces up to 36 months in prison on each of the four charges.

(Mike Frisch)

June 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Private Matter

A court-appointed attorney who accepted a retainer from his client has been publicly censured by a Colorado Hearing Board.

The client was a defendant charged in two drug cases. He and the attorney had discussions about converting the matters to private (i.e. retained) representation. The attorney took a $5,000 retainer and "made statements [to his client] implying that private representation would be superior to public representation."

The hearing board rejected a number of charged violations but found that the conduct violated RPC 8.4(d), which prohibits conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Mike Frisch)

June 26, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Relativity And Justice

The New York Court of Appeals has affirmed the removal of a non-attorney town court justice for failure to disqualiy himself from a number of cases involving his paramour's relatives. He contended that "he lacked a familial relationship to the persons and therefore had a 'right to hear those cases.' "

The court concluded that the justice engaged in serious misconduct and that

...in many of the cases at issue, [his] conduct gave the appearance of favoritism towards the Petrie family defendant or complaining witness. Moreover, [his] ex parte communications further exacerbated [his] improper conduct as they highlight his close relationships to the Petrie family and his partiality towards them.  Such conduct demonstrates a misuse of his judicial office and damages public confidence in his integrity and impartiality.

The court sits in St. Lawrence County, so I assume these are not the relatives of Rob and Laura Petrie. (Mike Frisch)

June 26, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dirty Deed

There seems to be a recent number of cases involving attorney discipline for misconduct that takes place in the context of their own divorce.

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted an agreement for discipline and imposed a 60 day suspension with automatic reinstatement in a matter where the attorney's spouse had her last name restored as part of the divorce decree. The attorney was awarded the marital home.

The attorney wanted to refinance. He had the ex-wife execute a quitclaim deed to him, which she did in her restored name. The married name was on the title.

The attorney did not become aware of the problem until the day of loan closing. He had a new deed with the married name prepared and signed his wife's married name. He then signed and notarized the deed in his secretary's name, without his ex-wife's knowledge or permission.

The misconduct apparently came to light as a result of the Secreary of State's investigation of the notarization.

The attorney had no prior discipline and was remorseful. (Mike Frisch)

June 26, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

D.C. Bar Discipline Proposal Now Available

The web page of the District of Columbia Bar now has this announcement with links:

The Bar’s Board of Governors has submitted two proposed changes to the D.C.
Court of Appeals Rules Governing the Bar seeking to clarify the contracting
authority obligations of the disciplinary system and to ensure accountability
for expenditures of Bar funds.

The Board’s transmittal
letter to the court and a copy of its proposed revisions to Rule XI
include
a new section 4(e)(10) that would clarify that the Board on Professional
Responsibility has the authority to enter into contracts when such authority has
been delegated to it by the Board of Governors and subject to the policies and
administrative procedures authorized by the Board. In addition, the Board
proposed a revision to Section 19(g) to confirm that expenses to be incurred by
the disciplinary system and paid out of funds of the Bar must comply with the
rules, policies, and administrative procedures of the Bar.

As per my post last week, it is progress that the Bar has made the letter to the Court of Appeals available for public inspection.  (Mike Frisch)

June 26, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)