Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Crossing The Delaware

An attorney admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but not in Delaware, was suspended for one year by the Delaware Supreme Court.

The attorney had engaged in unauthorized practice in representing approximately 75 personal-injury plaintiffs in Delaware. 

The attorney met the clients in a doctors office and never advertised or solicited for Delaware clients, which comprized about 10-15% of his practice. He either settled the cases or had suit filed by Delaware counsel. He never actually appeared in a Delaware court or pleading.

The court rejected the attorney's claim that he should have been prosecuted by the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law rather than the Board on Professional Responsibility. The court also rejected claims that the sanctions recommended violated Equal Protection and the "goals of attorney discipline."

The order also prohibits the attorney from providing advice to any Delaware clients for a year and  seeking pro hac admission for three years.

The court noted that there was "no harm" to any client. (Mike Frisch)

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This is a really interesting case.

The lawyer admits the charge. But I'm not so sure...

The the lawyer met with clients and potential clients in the state of Delaware. So there can be no doubt that Delaware could have exercised jurisdiction over him and could have deemed this the practice of law.

But the Court makes clear that:

A lawyer not admitted to practice in Delaware must refrain from establishing a “continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law.” Further, an out-of-state lawyer cannot “hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction.”

The court failed to define continuous presence and nor did it discuss what amounts to a continuous presence. And from the facts as stated, it did not sound like it to me. And nor did the court present any evidence that the lawyer was holding himself out as being admitted in Delaware. Their conclusion was totally speculative.

So my conclusion is that the lawyer wasn't actually guilty. Probably his real crime was upsetting the local legal community. The court emphasized how successful he had been.


Posted by: Stephen Williams | Dec 4, 2013 5:16:03 PM

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