Friday, April 19, 2013

Is Lying An Acceptable Risk?

The trend toward lenient sanctions for ethical violations in New Jersey is on display in a recent censure imposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court, which approved the proposed disposition of the Disciplinary Review Board.

The DRB report has this summary of governing precedent:

Precedent requires, at a minimum, a reprimand for respondent's most serious transgressions, misrepresentations to ethics authorities and to [the client's Pennsylvania attorney] Russell. His misconduct is aggravated, however, because he squandered several opportunities to "come clean" and to tell the truth about the dismissal of the complaint [filed for a slip-and-fall plaintiff]. Yet, with each new letter, he "doubled down" on his lies until, all told, six letters failed to include crucial information, that is, that the matter had been dismissed. We, therefore, determine that a censure is the suitable sanction in this case.

The attorney made misrepresentations in the bar investigation as well.

Does anyone find it problematic that an attorney can repeatedly lie and not suffer any suspension as a consequence? (Mike Frisch)

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Lying by lawyers is inexcusable, but there's a much more serious problem with the system.

I've been practicing law for more than 30 years, mostly in the federal court system. If I had to do it over again, I'd do something else.

Frankly, the system is broken - and the reason it's broken is not just that some lawyers are corrupt (although that is undoubtedly true). Instead, it's that so many of the judges are either unqualified or simply refusing to apply the law. When political partisans are appointed to the federal bench, you get judges who aim for pre-determined results - and they don't much care how they have to pervert the law in order to get there. I can't tell you how disheartening it is to practice before a court when you know that - irrespective of what the law requires - the result is pre-ordained.

Couple that with the fact that there's one system of justice for big money folks and an entirely different system for everyone else, and it's hard to be anything but cynical. I remember that long ago I actually did revere the law. Now, I go to work thinking of it more as a game - and that I and my clients are mere pawns in that game.

I'm glad I'm not coming out of law school today.

Posted by: Roberto | Aug 1, 2013 6:16:55 PM

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