Monday, April 7, 2014

Practicing "Paralegal" Disbarred

An attorney who was employed as a paralegal during a period of suspension engaged in unauthorized practice and was disbarred by the Delaware Supreme Court:

During his suspension, Feuerhake worked as a paralegal under the supervision of Jeffrey K. Martin, Esquire. But Feuerhake never provided Martin with a copy of the Suspension Order. Nor did he inform Martin of this Court’s prohibition on his ability to practice law during his suspension. The record also demonstrates that there was sufficient staff available at Martin’s office to return phone calls and contact clients.

Following his suspension, Feuerhake communicated with a client, Ms. Lamb, to inquire about facts related to her case. They planned for and later discussed the results of a pretrial conference. Feuerhake also spoke with another client, Ms. Barkes, up to twenty times to discuss the contents of briefs he wrote and filings by opposing counsel. Feuerhake also attended four depositions at which Ms. Barkes was present and communicated with the four different witnesses being deposed.

In conjunction with these specific violations, Feuerhake continued to engage in the practice of law in violation of the Suspension Order. He discussed cases with clients. He exchanged emails with opposing counsel about a draft  trial conference before the District Court on behalf of a client. Although Feuerhake noted on the record that he was only attending as a paralegal, he nonetheless addressed the court, made arguments and objections, responded to opposing counsel, and tried to distinguish case law.

Finally, Feuerhake received $39,466.66 as his share of a contingency fee from a settlement agreement...

As to sanction

Feuerhake argues that disbarment is overly punitive and instead suggests that a continued and extended suspension is more appropriate because he adequately performed during his suspension in aiding his clients. He further suggests that disbarment is inappropriate because he did not act wantonly or maliciously. We disagree. Disbarment is not limited to wanton or malicious misconduct. Disbarment is necessary to protect the public and the administration of justice, to preserve confidence in the legal profession, and to deter other lawyers from engaging in similar conduct during a period of suspension. Any other sanction would not sufficiently preserve the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the disciplinary process for Delaware lawyers.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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