February 28, 2012
Not Unethical To Share Electronic Research Provider Arrangement
The Delaware Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has opined that it would not violate judicial ethics for for Administrative Office of the Courts ("AOC") "to take advantage of an opportunity that would allow for access to LexisNexus electronic legal service for Delaware judges by sharing use with the Department of Justice.
The opinion notes that budget issues had required to Delaware courts "to focus their resources on one electronic research service provider." AOC would be made a joint party to the contract with the DOJ. (Mike Frisch)
February 27, 2012
A Colorado Hearing Committee has ordered the dismissal of ethics charges against an attorney in connection with his handling of an immigration matter.
The hearing committee concluded that evidence that the attorney's legal advice was incorrect did not establish an ethical violation:
We wish to stress that the legal strategy Respondent undertook would not be appropriate under all circumstances. Not all clients want their lawyer to pursue strategies that have a low probability of yielding relief...we must not quell the crusading spirit of lawyers like Respondent who attempt to rectify injustices they perceive in our legal system. Legal challenges to ingrained assumptions and entrenched practices may initially appear foolhardy, yet ultimately bring about valuable changes in the law.
The hearing board found that the attorney had a good-faith basis for his theories and acted with the client's informed consent. (Mike Frisch)
Judicial Clerk Cannot Accept Salary Advances From Law Firm
The Delaware Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opines that a judicial clerk may not accept a salary advance from a law firm. Such an advamnce "wouls essentially be an interset-free loan from the firm." Clerks may not receive any firm bonuses or moving expenses until their clerkship ends.
According to the Committee:
A potential solution is for the Clerk to work for the summer at the firm, save up funds from her normal salary, and then start the clerkship. Another solution would be for the advance to issue at the beginning of the summer and be repaid in total over the course of the summer, before the clerkship begins.
Judge Charged With Misconduct Involving Citation Against Son
From The Sentinel on February 15 (www.cumberlink.com):
A district judge in suburban Philadelphia was charged Wednesday with telling her staff not to docket a harassment citation against her adult son and lied to court officials investigating the matter.
The Judicial Conduct Board's misconduct allegations against Downingtown District Judge Rita A. Arnold could, if upheld, result in her suspension or removal from office.
The board, which pursues ethics cases before the Court of Judicial Discipline, also alleged that Arnold improperly transferred the citation against Forrest C. Solomon Jr. to another district judge and told a member of her staff to lie to investigators.
Neither Arnold nor her lawyer, Dawson R. Muth, immediately returned telephone messages seeking comment.
The board said Solomon, who lived with Arnold, was being supervised by the Chester County adult probation office in January 2010 when he failed a drug screen, and 13 days later was cited by a state trooper with summary harassment for an altercation inside the home with his half brother.
The board claims Arnold later told her office manager to ``hold onto'' the citation, and it was not docketed until April. The board claims Arnold did not follow normal protocol when she transferred the case to another district judge in Chester County.
A county court administration worker later recognized Solomon's name, realized he was Arnold's son, and noted what the board said were ``several irregularities during case processing'' of the citation.
Arnold later submitted a written report to the president judge denying she intended to do anything wrong, or obtain favorable treatment for her son, the board complaint said.
The Judicial Conduct Board, which began to investigate after being contacted by the president judge, said Arnold's office manager told investigators that Arnold told her to lie about how the citation was handled.
Arnold was charged with violating ethical rules for district judges as well as provisions of the state constitution.
The Georgia Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney, primarily based on misconduct in a paternity matter.
The attorney was retained by a client who had a DNA test that confirmed he was not the child's father. The matter was continued twice, with the attorney present both times. The case was then mistakenly reset for a Monday rathar than a Wednesday. The error was corrected and notices went out for the Wednesday hearing.
The attorney moved to withdraw prior to the hearing but the motion was not acted on. On the Monday, the client went to the attorney's office, made a fee payment, and went to court. The client realized "that something was amiss" and was advised of the date change. The client came back on Wednesday; the attorney never appeared despite repeated phone calls and assuarnces to the client that she would meet him in court. The matter was dismissed that afternoon.
The attorney falsely claimed in the bar proceedings that she appeared on both Monday and Wednesday. Four people testified to the contrary. (Mike Frisch)
Courts Can't Impose Pro Bono Penalty
The Maryland Court of Appelas reversed the Court of Special Appeals and held that 'the consideration that one party was represented on a pro bono basis, in an award of attorneys' fees to the other party who had retained counsel was erroneous under [the statute governing awards of costs and fees in family law matters]" and remanded for reconsideration of the statutory factors.
The case involved a custody modification proceeding. The petitioner was represented pro bono by the Sexual Assault Legal Institute. Her ex-husband retained counsel and accumulated over $70,000 in legal fees.
The trial court ordered the petitioner to pay her ex-huband over $30,000 in legal fees and costs because "she was in a better financial position than [the ex-husband], due to her having received pro bono representation..." (Mike Frisch)