A suspension for six months plus proof of fitness was ordered by a Colorado Hearing Board
In 2014, Respondent discovered two reviews of his legal services posted on Google+ (“Google Plus”) by two of his former clients. The reviews were negative and disparaged his work as an attorney. Respondent posted responses to each of the reviews on Google Plus.
One review, posted by T.S., mentions fees paid to Respondent and claims that Respondent did not adequately represent him. The one-paragraph review opines that Respondent is the “worst attorney” in Denver, that he did not call the district attorney or present T.S.’s “side” to the prosecution, that Respondent took $3,500.00 and “did nothing,” that Respondent lost his temper and called T.S.’s wife names, and that Respondent should be forced to terminate his law practice.
Respondent responded to that review and addressed specific facts about that representation. He wrote:
[T.S.] actually retained me twice, on the same case, in which he was charged with felony theft. He had been referred, to me, by a colleague, who is a former judge, deputy district attorney, mediator and private practitioner. After terminating my services, the first time, because I was unable to force the prosecutor to do his bidding, he came to realize that no lawyer has a magic wand, and rehired me on the case. As he had, before my first withdrawal, [T.S.] became nothing but abusive, demanding, insulting and offensive, and I decided to terminate my representation, as the result of his conduct. In order to earn my $3,500.00 disposition fee, I telephoned the district attorney, on numerous occasions but, as is common, among many prosecutors, the deputies never actually answered my call, and almost never returned it. It was necessary to travel outside the Denver metropolitan area, multiple times, for hearings and other court proceedings. I litigated the motion that [T.S.] insisted that I file, i.e. to dismiss, for destruction of evidence, and prosecutorial misconduct. He was not even able to substantiate the alleged facts that he presented to me, in my struggle to prevail, upon the motion. As with all ethical lawyers, it is inherently inimical, to me, to engage in conduct so base as calling either my clients, or their spouses, “names.” As for the practice of losing one’s temper, I commend the reader to [T.S.’s] own “review,” which constitutes nothing but defamation.
A second review was ostensibly posted by a person with the first initial “D.,” who claimed to be Respondent’s former client. That review, also just one paragraph in length, called Respondent one of the “worst attorneys” and asserted that he was late and unprepared for hearings, that he walked out of court before a hearing was over, and that he never used evidence given to him. The review does not state the type of matter in which Respondent was representing D., nor does it mention the fees paid to him.
Respondent responded to this review and addressed specific facts about D.’s representation:
I never appeared late, for any court appearance, on behalf of [D.], and was always fully prepared, to conduct the business at hand. Logic and common sense dictate that, if I were to attempt to leave a hearing before the court had concluded it, the judge would, as it were, “have my head.” No such thing occurred. Likewise, it is nonsensical that a lawyer would refuse to use relevant evidence helpful to his client, especially if it is “handed to him.” [D.] cannot corroborate anything that she claims, because it did not happen. For all of the many hours that I spent, in vigorous defense of her, against felony assault, felony eluding of police, and driving under the influence of alcohol, [D.] paid me, with a $4,000.00 insufficient-funds check. She then committed two criminal offenses, by fabricating “affidavits,” which were, purportedly, executed by former (and current) relatives, forging their signatures to them, then “notarizing” the forged signatures, when she was no longer commissioned, as a notary public. [D.’s] dishonest, fraudulent and criminal conduct speak for themselves.
The T.S. representation
In 2013, T.S., an itinerant preacher hired by churches in Colorado and other states to deliver sermons, retained Respondent to help him in a criminal matter. The representation ended by the middle of that year, however. T.S. was dissatisfied and posted his negative review on Avvo.com. He also created his own website, www.lanceisaac.com, to air his grievances. T.S. testified that he put up his website and posted the review to “protect the citizens of Denver” and to “warn the community about [Respondent’s] behavior” because, in his estimation, Respondent is “not fit to be a lawyer.” T.S.’s review also appeared on other websites, like Google Plus, ripoffreport.com, and complaintsboard.com; T.S. said that he imagined—though he conceded he did not know for sure—that someone had replicated his review verbatim and transferred it to those other sites.
In the disciplinary hearing the attorney explained his response to the bad reviews
As regards his former clients, he remarked, “the universe brings these people to me. This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to sociopaths and psychopaths. I’ve represented several of them in my career.” Concerning the People, he expressed outrage that they had initiated the investigation after going onto the web and finding his posts. He ruminated that it was “not just unseemly” that the People had done so, but in fact “very reminiscent of Stalinist Russia, it’s reminiscent of Nazi Germany. It’s where we go out looking: where can we find a Jew? where can we find a homosexual? where can we find somebody to do something to?” He also complained that “as a result of what has happened on the internet my business has plummeted.” “Once people start putting this kind of stuff out there about you it can end the whole game, and that’s basically what’s happened to me,” he said.
A key aggravating factor was the attorney's refusal to acknowledge the misconduct as well as extensive prior discipline.
Lawyers’ disclosure of client confidences erodes the trust that undergirds the lawyer client relationship. That Respondent even now fails to recognize this basic truth is disquieting, and leads us to impose a sanction that provides some reassurance that, before practicing law again, he appreciates that such misconduct is inimical to a lawyer’s role of loyal advocate and defender. We therefore suspend Respondent for six months, with the requirement that he petition for reinstatement under C.R.C.P. 251.29(c) before resuming the practice of law.
January 6, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink
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