Monday, December 8, 2014

Facebook Message Violated Ethics Rules; Suspension Ordered

An attorney who had self-reported a Rule 4.3 violation was suspended for six months by the Kansas Supreme Court.

The attorney represented the biological father in an adoption proceeding. His client opposed the adoption.

After he had deposed her, he sent this message via Facebook to the 18-year-old biological mother.

'I wish to offer you some reasons why you should stand up and fight for your daughter. As you know, I am the attorney for [the biological father]. We held your deposition in my office. I wanted to give you the chance to make things right. This may be your last opportunity to be a mom for [the baby]. As I told you after your deposition in my office, it is not too late. You still have a wonderful opportunity to have a real relationship with your daughter if you so choose. I have attached a document for you to consider signing and bringing to court or to my office. It is a revocation of your consent to adopt. If you sign this document there is a very good chance that you will be able to call [the baby] your own and [the baby] will call you her mom. I can't begin to explain how beautiful and wonderful parenthood is. I have a little girl myself and she is my world just like you are your dad's world. [The baby] deserves to know her parents. She deserves to know that you love her and care for her as well. Do not let this opportunity pass you by because you will live with this decision the rest of your life and [the baby] will know someday what happened. [The adoptive parents] do not legally have to ever let you see her again after court (although they are probably trying to convince you otherwise with the idea of an 'open adoption'). The reason why you don't know about the trial was because they don't want you there because that doesn't help [the adoptive parents] case. This is your time to get rid of the guilt and standup and do what is right and what [the baby] deserves. She deserves to have her parents love and care for her. She deserves to know her grandparents and extended family. If she's adopted, she won't have that chance. [The biological father] wants to be her dad and to love her. She deserves that. I urge you to print, sign, and notarize this document and bring it to my office before court. Trial is June 27, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse, Division 15. I hope to see you and your father there.'

As indicated, he also sent the biological mother a consent form to sign.

The court

we agree with the Disciplinary Administrator's argument that the egregious nature of the respondent's conduct warrants a longer period of suspension than that recommended by the hearing panel. As the hearing panel noted, respondent "attempted to manipulate the biological mother and, as a result, interfered with justice." Respondent's conduct "amounted to emotional blackmail" of an unrepresented 18-year-old who was dealing with a process that was already "'emotionally exhausting.'" His "electronic message was designed to embarrass, burden, and create guilt in the mind of the biological mother." These "bullying tactics directly reflect on [respondent's] fitness to practice law as an attorney." Consequently, we hold that the respondent should be suspended for a period of 6 months. A minority of the court would impose a longer period of suspension. We unanimously order a reinstatement hearing under Rule 219.

The attorney must prove that reinstatement is appropriate. (Mike Frisch)

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In the third sentence of the description of the story you use "her" in reference to "the 18-year-old biological mother" which is the direct object of the sentence. Using the pronoun first makes you think that the reference is to "his client" which is the subject of the previous sentence, which makes no sense since the client is a "he" and the attorney presumably wouldn't depose his own client.

Posted by: Kenneth Corey-Edstrom` | Dec 17, 2014 9:53:37 AM

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