Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Informal Admonition For Response To Client's Unfavorable Web Comments

The District of Columbia Office of Bar (oops Disciplinary) Counsel has informally admonished an attorney for a violation of the duty of confidentiality.

The client had complained about the attorney's fees and abusive behavior that led to her terminate his services.


After the attorney-client relationship ended, the client posted comments about [the attorney] on a website in which she was highly critical of [him] and the representation [he] provided. [He] responded to her comments and, in doing so, revealed specific information about her case. her emotional state, and what transpired during [the] attorney-client relationship - although [he] did not identify the client by name.

The ODC did not find misconduct in the underlying representation but did find that the web response violated Rule 1.6. The response was not permitted under the exception that permits an attorney to use or reveal confidences or secrets to defend formal charges.

The internet is presumably less than formal.

ODC also found that the attorney violated Rule 8.4(c) "when [he] posted a further response on the website concerning Disciplinary Counsel's investigation of the client's allegations and Disciplinary Counsel's statements."

The post - that he had been 'cleared" of the charges in the complaint  "was, at best, misleading..." and thus violated the rule.

Disciplinary Counsel does not post informal admonitions until the time to note a rejection (the attorney's right) has lapsed. Thus, this is final discipline. Also he must complete three hours of CLE in confidentiality obligations.

The case is In re John P. Mahoney, Bar Docket No. 2015-D141 and can be found here. (Mike Frisch)

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