November 9, 2012
Lawyer Does Dallas
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department ordered an interim suspension of an attorney facing charges of billing fraud.
The information before the court
...by letter, respondent's prior firm indicated that because respondent's billing had been questioned by the client, it had conducted an investigation. Upon concluding its investigation, which included conversations with respondent, the firm determined that respondent's fraudulent billing involved only one of the firm's clients and occurred between February and July 2011. During that period, respondent took six trips to Dallas, Texas, for purely personal reasons but nevertheless, by submitting expense reports, billed virtually every expense he incurred in connection therewith to the firm's client. When the firm asked respondent for an explanation, he confirmed that he had in fact billed the firm's client for expenses not incurred by the client and which instead purely personal. According to respondent's prior firm, respondent fraudulently billed the firm's client $40,203.18. By letters dated May 10 and 24, 2012, respondent, through counsel, confirmed that but for minor discrepancies, the assertions made by his prior firm in its letter to the Committee were accurate.
The suspension is in effect until final discipline is imposed. (MIke Frisch)
November 8, 2012
Unprofessional, Discourteous And Vulgar
The New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department has imposed a two-year suspension of an attorney who defaulted on the bar charges.
Among the violations was a finding that the attorney had engaged in "unprofessional, discourteous and vulgar" behavior toward another lawyer. No details are recited in the order of discipline. (Mike Frisch)
Stayed Suspension For First Offense
The Ohio Supreme Court has imposed a stayed one year suspension of an attorney who was admitted in 1966 and had never been previously disciplined.
The court found that the attorney's trust account practices violated ethics rules but that he had not acted dishonestly. Rather, his lapses were "the result of bad time management and recordkeeping."
The attorney must comply with monitored probation for two years. (Mike Frisch)
November 7, 2012
"Future Restitution" An Unethical Inducement
The Wyoming Supreme Court has imposed a censure of a (now former) public defender for misconduct in the defense of a client accused of sexual crimes against his minor niece.
The client had a personal injury suit that resulted in a $250,000 settlement.
The attorney contacted the victim's mother (the client's sister) and offered $15,000 for her favorable recommendation at sentencing.
The court appended and accepted the Board of Professional Responsibility's report and recommendation that found the inducement (which the attorney called "future restitution") violated several ethics rules and rejected the contention that the phrase "conduct prejudicial to the adminstration of justice" was unduly vague. (Mike Frisch)
LLM Plagiarism Leads To Bar Charges
The Illinois Administrator has filed a three-count complaint against an attorney.
Count One of the complaint alleges that the attorney, after admission to practice, engaged in plagiarism while enrolled in the LLM program at John Marshall Law School. The complaint contends that the attorney was dismissed from the program after a finding that she had plagiarized a paper.
Count Two alleges that the attorney failed to disclose the plagiarism finding in an application for admission to the DePaul Law School LLM program.
Count three alleges that the attorney made false statement to the Administrator. (Mike Frisch)
Magistrate Reprimanded For "Beat Your Ass" Comment
The South Carolina Supreme Court issued a public reprimand of a county magistrate for misconduct while presiding over bond court.
When a defendant questioned the bond set, the magistrate asked him whether he was calling him a liar. The defendant responded: "No, I'm not going anywhere."
The magistrate's problem came with the next comment: "Okay. Because I'll beat your ass if you call me a liar."
The magistrate regretted the comment and explained that his disabled three-year-old son awoke at 2 am that morning and, as a result, he was unable to get back to sleep. (Mike Frisch)
November 6, 2012
Jumping The Gun Gets Attorney Censured
An attorney was publicly censured by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility for opening a law office and setting up a website promoting his legal services prior to completing the swearing in requirements of governing rules.
The attorney was initially licensed in Mississippi in 2005. He took and passed the Tennessee bar exam in July 2008 but was not sworn in until May 2009.
The misconduct took place prior to the swearing in. (Mike Frisch)
On The Way To Oxnard
An attorney who defaulted on an array of bar disciplinary charges has been disbarred by the Arizona Presiding Disciplinary Judge.
The order noted that the attorney had abandoned his practice after a December 2011 arrest.
The arrest was described by the Desert Independent:
During questioning Wade was uncooperative and kept reaching for the area of the front passenger’s seat. In the meantime other Blythe Police officers arrived to assist and Wade was ordered out of his car, but kept reaching for the passenger’s seat. As a precaution for officer safety the officers drew their firearms and ordered Wade out of his car. Still, Wade refused to cooperate and was assisted out of the car by the officers.
After Wade was secured, his car was searched. A loaded 45 Caliber handgun with a round in the chamber was found under the passenger’s seat.
Wade was later booked into the Blythe jail for driving while intoxicated, possession of a loaded firearm and for resisting arrest. Blythe Police were later contacted by jail staff and information was relayed that Wade told them that he was on his way to Oxnard to allegedly harm his former girlfriend and her new boyfriend.
Blythe Police contacted Wade’s former girlfriend and her boyfriend and relayed the information. The former girlfriend and boyfriend, in turn, told relayed to Blythe Police that they had allegedly received a text message from Wade this morning telling them that he was on his way to Oxnard and that he was going to shoot them. Oxnard Police Department was contacted and informed of what was said by Wade.
The discipline imposed here did not involve the criminal charges, which are pending. (Mike Frisch)
Pain Establishes Domestic Battery
In an opinion issued yesterday, the Indiana Supreme Court addressed the following issue:
When a husband shoves his wife and pokes her in the forehead repeatedly, caused her pain, is that pain alone sufficient evidence to prove the "bodily injury" element of the husband's conviction for domestic abuse? One panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals thought not, but we disagree.
The incident took place as the husband and wife were drinking together. (Mike Frisch)
An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended that an attorney be disbarred for his conviction in a marijuana distribution scheme.
The board recited the facts:
In May 2010, Respondent agreed to lease an 18,000 sq. ft. warehouse located in Sacramento California to Peter and Thomas Holtzman. When he entered into the agreement, Respondent knew the Holtzmans intended to use the warehouse space to cultivate marijuana for distribution. Respondent also agreed to be paid a fee by the Holtzmans for acting as a front for their activities, in addition to the compensation received for rent and utility expenses related to the operation of the warehouse. Respondent visited the warehouse at least eight times between May and December 2010,and met with telephone or municipal utility workers when installation or inspection work was required.
On December 9, 2010, agents from the Sacramento Regional Office of the Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement received a telephone call from the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District regarding several electrical transformers in the vicinity of the warehouse that had overheated. That problem was traced to the warehouse. After unsuccessful attempts to contact Respondent, agents attempting to enter the warehouse property apprehended a man who was fleeing from them. In the resulting security sweep of the warehouse site, agents discovered 8,000 marijuana plants, 200 lights and ballasts, fans and a $15,000 marijuana trimming machine.
The attorney's response:
I have prepared an answer, but I am not going to file it. From a legal perspective, I believe that my chances of successfully defending against the bar's claims are very, very low. From a practical perspective, I have not practiced in Illinois for more than twenty-five years and don't intend to return to practice there; also, time and cost make a defense prohibitive.
The board noted that the attorney acknowledged the misconduct and expressed remorse. (Mike Frisch)
Attorney Sanctioned For Failure To Obtain Cinderella Video
The New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board has imposed a censure of an attorney basded on findings of gross neglect and lack of diligence in representing a client charged with DWI in Parsippany Township.
The board found that the client, Cinderella Eboh, had claimed innocence. There was an exculpatory video of the incident. The prosecutor disclosed the existence of the video and the court directed the attorney to obtain it. He did not.
The client testified that she was told by the attorney that the video could not be obtained. As a result, the client followed the attorney's advice and pleaded guilty.
Later, with new counsel, the plea was vacated and the exculpatory video was obtained.
The board found insufficient evidence that the attorney had lied to the client about the video.
The attorney had a record of prior discipline for advertising violations and attempted drug possession by fraud. He also failed to participate in the disciplinary process. (Mike Frisch)
A justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered a suspension of a year and a day of an attorney who had billed excessive hours in two matters. The attorney knowingly spent more time than was necessary in order to increase the bills to clients.
The attorney was a salaried law firm employee who was eligible for additional compensation based on his hours worked and fees collected.
In both matters, he billed for unnecessary and duplicative services. In one of the matters, he billed over 600 hours by charging the client in a products liability matter daily blocks of significant time over a six-month period. In a professional services defense matter, the attorney billed over 150 hours.
The law firm returned fees to each client.
This case is a bit unusual. While there are many cases of discipline for inflating hours, here it appears that the attorney performed services that were not necessary to the representation. (Mike Frisch)