September 7, 2012
Attorney's 9-1-1 Call Reporting Client For Domestic Violence Leads To Stayed Suspension
The Ohio Supreme Court has imposed a six-month suspension of an attorney who became romantically involved with a client in a domestic relations matter. However, the court stayed the suspension on good behavior.
Over the course of two dinners, the attorney persuaded the client to be intimate with him and "assured" her that the relationship created no conflict of interest. She testified that she was overwhelmed by his overtures and was afraid to resist for fear of losing legal representation.
The attorney employed the client as a bookkeeper, leased her a car and made various payments on her behalf. They took a number of vacations together.
After they moved in together, there was an incident that led the attorney to call 9-1-1 and report the client for alleged domestic violence. The attorney then "fired" the client, who was left in the lurch in ongoing proceedings and subject to a civil protection order.
Although he abandoned her case, he continued to make "overtures" to her, notwithstanding the CPO.
Note Rick Underwood's question with respect to the non-suspensory sanction imposed here. (Mike Frisch)
September 6, 2012
The Manner Of Departure
The Florida Supreme Court has imposed suspensions of 91 and 60 days against two attorneys for misconduct in connection with their departure as employees of a law firm.
The court found that the attorneys "made secret plans to leave [the firm]" that involved soliciting clients of the firm to terminate representation and retain their new firm, misrepresentations to the firm and clients, copied files without authorization and improperly used the name of a third attorney who did not join their new firm.
The court disapproved of the referee's factual findings and found that the use of the files amounted to criminal theft, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The court rejected the referee's proposed sanction that the attorneys be admonished. (Mike Frisch)
Hard To Get Along With Defendant Forfeited Right To Counsel
A criminal defendant forfeited his right to appointed counsel when he screamed "You're an idiot" at one of his attorneys at a court proceeding and "then managed to drive off his next attorney by engaging in behavior the [judge] deemed 'abusive,' " according to a decision of the Delaware Supreme Court.
The criminal charges involved the defendant's threat to "stick a pickax" in his neighbor.
The trial court found that the defendant had "engaged in sufficiently egregious activity to forfeit his Sixth Amendment right to counsel." (Mike Frisch)
Sex With Former Patient Criminal Statute Constitutional In New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has reversed a trial court order dismissing a criminal charge against a licensed psychologist who engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with an adult to whom he had provided therapy, within one year of the termination of the professional relationship.
The court found that the state statute that imposes strict felony liability for such conduct did not violate the Federal or State Constitutions.
A dissent relies on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas in concluding that the statute is unconstitutional as applied to the defendant as it imposes "strict liability ion the therapist even when the 'protected' partner was actually capable of giving or refusing consent and did, in fact, freely give it..." (Mike Frisch)
Call for Papers - Diversity in Legal Education and the Law
Future Role of Diversity in Legal Education and the Law:
Symposium Honoring Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard
Valparaiso University Law School
In creating the Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity (“ICLEO”) program, Chief Justice Randall Shepard took a significant step in ensuring that all citizens are truly equal in the eyes of the law. Indiana became the first state in the nation to have its own CLEO program to assist minority, low-income or educationally disadvantaged college graduates pursuing law degrees. The ICLEO model has now been adopted by other states.
The Valparaiso University Law Review is currently accepting submissions for the forthcoming Shepard Symposium and Special Issue. The Shepard Symposium will provide a forum for a comprehensive inquiry into the role of diversity in legal education and the legal profession. The Symposium will explore diversity issues in legal education and the legal profession while also recognizing Chief Justice Shepard’s role in fostering diversity.
To submit a paper for presentation at the Symposium, please provide an abstract of you work by email submission no later than Monday, December 3, 2012.
Abstract submissions should be made via email to the VULR Symposium Editor at email@example.com Abstract submissions should include a cover letter and a copy of the author’s curriculum vitae Submissions must be in MS Word format
All participants are expected to produce a manuscript suitable for publication in the Valparaiso University Law Review.
September 5, 2012
Avoiding Trips To Oklahoma Leads To Suspension From Practice
An Arkansas attorney has been suspended for 24 months by a panel of the Committee on Professional Conduct for misconduct in connection with a bankruptcy matter.
The clients had purchased a thirty-five acre farm in "far eastern Oklahoma." They moved their legal residence from Arkansas, where they both worked. They sought representation for a possible bankruptcy as a result of "mounting bills for expenses plus medical bills" from the wife's injury.
The misconduct involved using an Arkansas address to file while knowing that the clients resided in Oklahoma, using the Arkansas address on tax returns and failing to file the tax returns in either state for 2009. The attorney also made false statements to the bankruptcy court.
"He filed in Arkansas as a convenience to himself, so he would not have to travel several hours into the Oklahoma court site to service the [clients'] case at hearings there..." (Mike Frisch)
Persistent Divorce Client Neglected; Attorney Suspended
The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports:
The Supreme Court of Ohio has suspended the law license of Norwalk attorney George C. Ford for two years, with the final six months of that term stayed, for neglecting the cases of two clients, charging one client an illegal or clearly excessive fee, and failing to cooperate with disciplinary authorities investigating his misconduct.
In a 7-0 per curiam decision, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that in one case, despite more than 50 calls and inquiries from his client in a divorce case over a three-year period, Ford failed to complete and transmit to the court a qualified domestic relations order necessary to implement the property settlement included in the client’s divorce decree.
In a second case, the court agreed with the board’s finding that Ford violated multiple disciplinary rules when he accepted a $3,500 fee from an incarcerated client to pursue an order vacating or setting aside the client’s sentence, but neglected the case until the deadline for filing such a motion had expired, and then failed to file an amended version of a pro se motion the client had prepared on his own until an extended deadline granted by the court had also expired.
In setting the sanction for Ford’s misconduct, the court noted that despite being served with copies of the client grievances against him, Ford failed to provide complete responses to disciplinary counsel’s requests for information, failed to appear for a scheduled deposition, and did not file an answer to the formal complaint filed against him with the disciplinary board or otherwise participate in the board’s proceedings.
Please note:Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion released by the court, but only for those cases considered noteworthy or of great public interest. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions from 1992 to the present are available online from the Reporter of Decisions. In the Full Text search box, enter the eight-digit case number at the top of this summary and click "Submit."
2011-2042. Disciplinary Counsel v. Ford, Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-3915.
On Certified Report by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, No. 11-061. George Cook Ford III, Attorney Registration No. 0011982, is suspended from the practice of law in Ohio for two years, with six months stayed on conditions.
O’Connor, C.J., and Pfeifer, Lundberg Stratton, O’Donnell, Lanzinger, Cupp, and McGee Brown, JJ., concur.
September 4, 2012
Check Bribery Offer Shows Impaired Thinking
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has imposed a public censure of an attorney for criminal offenses described in the opinion:
Respondent testified that on the date of the incident, he went to lunch with friends during which he drank heavily. He then returned to his office and his friends eventually left. Respondent left his Jackson Heights office around 5:00 p.m. intending to drive home to Elmont, but after he crossed into Nassau County, his car collided with a telephone pole. Respondent had no recollection of the accident other than, after he exited his damaged vehicle, he was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police vehicle, and taken to a police station. Respondent testified that he had no recollection of the events that occurred at the police station, including his attempt to bribe a police officer with a personal check for $2,000.
The panel that considered the case noted: "[w]e cannot help but observe that an attorney who would offer to bribe a police officer by means of a personal check would have to have had his judgment impaired by something." (Mike Frisch)
Suspension Proposed For Online Chat Crimes
The Illinois Review Board has recommended a suspension until November 30, 2013 and further court order in a matter involving the attorney's Colorado criminal conviction.
Respondent testified that he began using the internet for sexual gratification about six months after he got married. In 2002, he began frequenting sexual chat rooms and spent up to six hours per day in the chat rooms. Respondent reported that he had hundreds of chats prior to his arrest. In the chat rooms, Respondent used a false name, "johntoes," and gave a false age...
On October 30, 2008, Respondent initiated a conversation with "amygirlco1996" (Amy Girl). This was the undercover profile for Shawn M. Cronce, an officer with the Douglas County, Colorado Sheriff's Office. Amy Girl portrayed herself online as a 12-year-old girl from Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
Between October 30, 2008, and January 12, 2009, Respondent had four sexually explicit online conversations with Amy Girl. Amy Girl identified her age as 12 years old numerous times during these conversations.
Respondent focused the conversations on urination and masturbation. He told Amy Girl that he wanted her to "pee on a towel" while masturbating and asked her to sit on the edge of the bathtub and "see how far u can pee." He told Amy Girl, this "turns me on so badly." Respondent sent Amy Girl a picture of himself from the waist up and also sent her two pictures of an erect penis. He stated to Amy Girl that it was a picture of his penis, but later told police that it was a picture he found on Craigslist. He asked Amy Girl to send him a picture of herself via webcam.
In relation to his communications with Amy Girl, Respondent was charged on January 15, 2009, in Douglas County, Colorado, with three counts of internet sexual exploitation of a child and two counts of promotion of obscenity to a minor. Respondent pled guilty on November 10, 2009, to one count of internet sexual exploitation of a child, a felony, and one count of obscenity-wholesale promotion, a misdemeanor.
Immigration Practice Starts at Home
The Ohio Supreme Court imposed an indefinite suspension of an attorney who had emigrated from Ghana to the United States:
Within months of being admitted to the practice of law in Ohio, [the attorney] began to engage in a years-long series of fraudulent acts against the United States government for personal gain. Moreover, [she] attempted to defraud the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service while she herself was running an immigration law practice.
The attorney had married another law student from Ghana while attending law school in Ohio. That marriage was dissolved in Ghana and the attorney remarried. The situation led to criminal charges, a plea of guilty and departure back to her country of origin.
The court had earlier rejected a proposed consent suspension of two years. (Mike Frisch)
September 2, 2012
Disbarred Attorney Used Hidden Cameras To Peep On Female Guests
An order of disbarment reported in the California Bar Journal:
[An attorney] was disbarred Aug. 12, 2012, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
In 2011, [the attorney] pleaded guilty in Alaska to felony possession of child pornography and misdemeanor indecent viewing or photography. He was ordered to register as a sex offender in the state.
He had installed hidden video cameras in various rooms of his home and watched multiple female guests in various states of undress while they changed clothes or showered. He sometimes encouraged guests to use the rooms prior to recording them. While investigating [him], law enforcement found more than 300 images of child porn in the home.
KTUU.com reported that the attorney clerked for a federal judge in Alaska and described the circumstances that led to his arrest:
...on May 5 of 2010 his co-clerk, while staying over to babysit his son, discovered on his personal computer a trove of videos of herself and other friends, taken in "their most vulnerable moments."
The victim, identified by the court as "D," said she'd developed a close bond with both Eisman and his wife -- attending their child's birth, spending holidays with their family and regularly babysitting overnight to give the new mother a few hours of needed sleep. In exchange, Eisman's wife would pack her box lunches affixed with encouraging notes.
She had been looking on the family computer, with permission, for "regular, normal" pictures Eisman had taken of the group at Fur Rendezvous when she stumbled on clips of herself and others undressing, using the bathroom and even showering. The videos were filmed on tiny cameras hidden in lamps, carbon monoxide detectors and picture frames around Eisman's home and a family cabin. Six victims were identified by their initials in the charges.
"The clips would start with me taking my clothes off and end after I had put them back on," she told the court at Eisman’s sentencing on Thursday.
The clips were meticulously organized, she said, with some labeled "good."
"It's a horrible thing to turn your former best friend in to the police," she said.