November 3, 2012
Proceed With Caution
TheTennessee Judicial Ethics Committee recently weighed in on the issue whether judges "may utiize social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace."
The committee surveys the opinions of other jurisidictions on the subject and opines that a judge may do so but with caution.
A judge "must be constantly aware of ethical implications as they participate in social media and whether disclosure should be made...judges must decide whether the benefit and utility of paticipating in social media justify the attendant risks."
November 2, 2012
Attorney Suspended: Claimed All New Hampshire Judges, Prosecutors and Court Personnel Were Clinically Insane
The Vermont Supreme Court ordered an interim suspension of an attorney based on its conclusion that he "poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public."
The evidence submitted to the court supported the conclusion that the attorney had falsely signed his partner's name to 14 motions in criminal matters in which he was the defendant. The court found that the motions were frivolous and demonstrated his lack of competence.
Among the assertions in the motions: that one case should be transferred to Admiralty court in Key West, Florida; that "all of the judges, prosecuting attorneys, and court personnel in New Hampshire were clinically insane;" that the Mafia had taken over Vermont courts after Hurricane Katrina; and that an assault and unlawful mischief prosecution should be dismissed as a violation of his rights to "home, air, water and light."
Issues regarding the attorney's competence to stand trial were raised in another criminal case.
Although it appears that the attorney has no current clients, the court found the suspension necessary to prevent harm should he seek to represent clients in the future. (Mike Frisch)
November 1, 2012
Annoying Calls Draw Sanction
From the November 2012 online edition of the California Bar Journal:
[An attorney] was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a four-month actual suspension and he was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Sept. 27, 2012.
[The attorney] was convicted in 2010 of making annoying phone calls to his ex-wife, a misdemeanor warranting discipline. He called his ex-wife five to seven times one evening and was belligerent and yelling on the phone. She went to his home, found him inebriated and refused to enter the home. Because she was frightened, she contacted the police who found several containers with marijuana and a glass smoking pipe in [his] home. At the time, he was on probation for two 2009 misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence.
In mitigation, [he] cooperated with the bar’s investigation and receives treatment for bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence. He has been sober since May 2010 and has regularly attended Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. He was suspended in 2010 following convictions for driving on a suspended license and driving under the influence.
Judge Sanctioned For Seeking Defendant's Vote
The Ohio Commission of Judges has ordered that a judge of the Akron Municipal Court be fined $5,000 for misconduct while a candidate for the County Court of Common Pleas.
During a criminal matter, the judge told a defendant "that he need not worry about jail time if he stayed out of trouble then immediately request[ed] his personal and familial support for her election."
The Commission concluded that the statement "might reasonably be construed as a statement affecting the outcome of an impending matter before the judge."
The judge was disciplined previously for judicial election law violations in the same election cycle.
Here, the judge was publicly reprimanded along with the fine. (Mike Frisch)
The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging misconduct based on the following factual averments:
During all of 2011 and continuing through the early months of 2012, Respondent lived in Mannheim, Germany, where he worked as in-house assistant general counsel for a multinational corporation that has its corporate headquarters in Illinois. Respondent's responsibilities included advising the corporation on export control matters. Respondent did not maintain a private practice apart from the legal work he did for the corporation.
During that same period, Respondent had a personal relationship with a woman who was a citizen of Turkey, and who required a visa in order to travel from that country to visit Respondent in Germany. Respondent knew that a business visa would allow the woman to stay in Germany for a longer period than would a personal visa. Respondent also knew that the woman did not meet the qualifications necessary to receive a business visa.
On September 8, 2011 and January 25, 2012, Respondent prepared two separate letters addressed to the consular visa section of the German embassy in Turkey. Both letters were printed on letterhead stationery that identified Respondent as an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois, and which listed Respondent's home address as the location of a law firm.
In the letters...Respondent stated that he was a member of a law firm that specialized in export control law, that he advised international clients in export compliance and proceedings, and that the firm requested that the woman...be granted a business visa to attend a series of meetings related to Turkey and its purported "particular role as an emerging market for our clients." Respondent forwarded both letters to the woman...with the expectation that she would deliver them to the German embassy in support of an application for a business visa for which she was not otherwise qualified.
Respondent's statements in the two letters...were false, and Respondent knew that they were false, because he was not then a member of a law firm specializing in export control law, he was not engaged in advising international clients in export compliance and proceedings, and there was no series of meetings scheduled with the woman to discuss exports to Turkey or any other business purpose.
October 31, 2012
New York Pro Bono Rule Information Links
The web page of the New York Court of Appeals has posted information concerning the impending pro bono requirements for newly-admitted members.
The posting has links to the necessary forms as well as general information about the rule. (Mike Frisch)
Character Letter Helps
The Ohio Supreme Court found that an attorney had violated his trust account responsibilities but that mitigating factors warranted a stayed suspension of one year.
The court cited the attorney's 30 years of discipline-free practice, prompt restitution, full cooperation and good character and reutation in his communbity. There were no overdrafts or other harm to clients.
The court noted that the attorney's practice was limited due to his full time employment as a township administrator.
Further, the president of his largest client "submitted a letter praising [his] character and integrity over the course of their 20-year working relationship and stated that his company intends to continue that relationship despite [his] violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct."
The attorney has corrected his practices "to ensure that he does not repeat his past mistakes." He also watached a webcast that explained proper trust account procedures. (Mike Frisch)
From the Ohio Supreme Court web page:
The Supreme Court of Ohio has indefinitely suspended the law license of Galloway attorney Mark J. Squeo for giving false and misleading information to the driver of a car involved in a collision with a car in which Squeo was a passenger, and for continuing to practice law while his license was under administrative suspension for failing to complete required continuing legal education coursework and failing to comply with state attorney registration requirements.
In a 7-0 per curiam opinion announced today, the court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Squeo falsely held himself out as a licensed attorney, and engaged in conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation and conduct that reflects adversely on his fitness to practice law when he gave false information to the other driver at the scene of a 2009 traffic accident.
The court also adopted findings by the disciplinary board that despite the continuous suspension of his law license since 2003, Squeo engaged in the unlicensed practice of law by identifying himself as a licensed attorney and filing documents with the Franklin County Recorder on behalf of two different clients in 2004.
The court also found that by failing to respond to repeated requests for information from the Columbus Bar Association, and failing to appear for a scheduled deposition or for a hearing on the misconduct charges brought against him, Squeo violated the professional conduct rules that require attorneys to provide information requested by disciplinary authorities and otherwise cooperate with investigations of alleged attorney misconduct.
Under the terms of the suspension imposed today, Squeo will be ineligible to apply for readmission as an attorney until at least October 2014.
The driver was the attorney's son.
The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
October 30, 2012
Book Review Bad Idea For Judge
A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:ISSUE
May a judge accept an invitation from a university editorial board member to critique a book written by the lead defense attorney of a well-publicized criminal case, when the defendant in that case remains a party in pending proceedings arising from issues raised in the criminal case?
ANSWER: Yes. However, given the restrictions which the Code of Judicial Conduct would place on the judge in this specific case, the Committee advises the inquiring judge to decline the invitation.FACTS
The inquiring judge was asked by a friend who sits on a university’s editorial board if the judge would consider submitting a critique of a book written by the lead defense attorney of a recent well-publicized criminal case. The case was heavily tracked by the media, including “gavel to gavel” coverage locally and on the internet during the month-long trial. The inquiring judge advises that the university editorial board intends to publish the proposed critique in an online journal. The university editorial board also intends to send a copy of the proposed critique to the book’s publisher which can use the proposed critique as it wishes.
As of the date of this opinion, the counts upon which the defendant was convicted remain pending on appeal. Also, civil lawsuits arising from issues raised in the criminal case remain pending against the defendant. The book’s author is not an attorney-of-record in any of those case.
The reasoning:...the inquiring judge must be mindful of the fact that, once the judge has submitted the proposed critique, the judge has lost control over how the proposed critique is used. As the inquiring judge advises, the university editorial board intends to send a copy of the proposed critique to the book’s publisher which can use the proposed critique as it wishes. It is possible that the book’s publisher or the criminal defense attorney will use the proposed critique to advance their private interests. An argument could be made that the judge, recognizing this possibility, indirectly lent the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the book’s publisher or the criminal defense attorney in violation of Canon 2B. See Fla. JEAC Op. 96-25 (judge’s potential arrangement to appear on a television station “to comment about, explain to, and educate the public concerning diverse legal matters including explaining and clarifying the proceedings during high publicity trials” would violate Canon 2B because it “would lend judicial prestige to the commercial interests of that station”).
Based on the foregoing, although the Committee recognizes that the inquiring judge could accept the invitation to write the proposed critique, the Committee advises the inquiring judge to decline the invitation given the restrictions which the Code of Judicial Conduct would place on the judge in this specific case.
Baseball Bat Beating Of Client Draws License Annulment
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has annulled the law license of an attorney convicted of felony unlawful wounding.
The attorney beat a client (Mr. Gump) with a wooden baseball bat and chased after the client with the bat down a residential street, continuing to hit his defenseless victim on the ground. The client suffered "significant injuries."
The court rejected the attorney's offered mitigation suggesting that the client was a drug addict who demanded money from him.
Digital Journal had this report on the criminal case.
In another violent incident, the attorney was convicted of two counts of wanton endangerment. There he had used a propane tank to break the window of a car occupied by his then-wife and her juvenile child.
To complete the picture, the attorney converted funds owed to Mr. Gump's grandfather (also Mr. Gump). (Mike Frisch)
Indigent Counsel Plan Upheld
The New York Court of Appeals has rejected a claim by county bar associations to New York City's 2010 system for providing counsel to indigents in cases where there is a conflict of interest.
The court held that "the City may assign conflicts cases to institutional providers, that its ability to do so is not contingent on the consent of the county bar associations and that the City's proposed indigent defense plan does not run afoul of the County Law or Municipal Home Rule Law."
At issue were two plans for indigent representation that did not include the assent of the bar associations.
Chief Judge Lippman wrote a dissent, joined by two judges:
The City may have very sound reasons for the changes it proposes, but as it goes about altering, perhaps irretrievably, the network of indigent defense service providers that has been in place for some 47 years, it would seem than than ordinarily important to insist upon compliance with the limitations contained in county Law, section 722, among them that bar association consent be obtained as a condition of a City plan purporting to rely on "a plan of a bar association." This is not simply a question of logic and manners. The purpose of the statute is to assure that there will be quality reptresentation for indigent defendants...and toward that end the Legislature has, quite reasonably, required localities to act cooperatively with the bar associations whose members are to be drawn upon for their professional services. If the panels are to be retained and usefully administered as a representational resource, it would be prudent and natural that it would be according to a sustained plan devised not only by the City but also in part by legal professionals concerned first and foremost with the delivery of quality representation. That is, in any event, what the statute requires and what municipal discretion therefore is not appropriately invoked to excuse.
October 29, 2012
Close Relationship Interrupted By Gunfire
A Massachusetts attorney has been indefinitely suspended as a result of his conviction of weapons offenses.
During the course of a "heated argument," the attorney "fired a gun in the direction of a woman with whom he had a close relationship."
The attorney was sentenced to three to five years in prison followed by probation. He had been suspended since the incident. The court imposed the suspension as of the date of the interim suspension.
The Salem News had this report. (Mike Frisch)