Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Attorney disciplined for unauthorized use of Westlaw

This isn't the first time a state court has ruled that it is an ethical violation to misuse one's free access to Westlaw. Law students be warned that misusing your law school account in a summer associate job will get you in trouble with the state's bar association.  From

Lawyer sanctioned for unauthorized use of Westlaw

An attorney licensed to practice in Oregon and Hawaii has been disciplined for unauthorized use of a Westlaw account for more than a year. 

The Oregon Supreme Court on October 11 called for the public reprimand of Everett Walton, who continued to use Westlaw legal databases after he left a job as special prosecutor for the Republic of Palau, which was paying for the service. Walton used the account for 14 months after he quit the prosecutor job to work as a legal aid attorney, according to the decision.

Oregon's high court found that Walton violated ethics rule that require attorneys to act honestly. The decision was a reciprocal disciplinary ruling based on a prior disciplinary action in Hawaii against Walton, who now is in private practice as a litigator in Hilo, Hawaii.

In issuing the order, the Oregon court rejected a sanction called for by the Oregon State Bar, which argued that Walton should be suspended from practice for six months.

"Although we have found that the accused acted intentionally, we have concluded that the Bar has not established that the accused engaged in criminal conduct, let alone serious criminal conduct," the court found.

Walton, reached by telephone, said that he accepted the ruling. "I think it was a good decision," he said.

. . . .

Walton, who is licensed to practice in Hawaii and Oregon, was appointed special prosecutor in 2001 for the Republic of Palau, a group of islands in the Western Pacific with a population of 21,000.

In March 2007, while still holding that position, he entered into a three-year contract with Thomson Reuters Corp., the owner of Westlaw Internet legal research services. Under the contract, the Palau government agreed to pay a flat rate of about $1,170 per month for unlimited access to Westlaw until May 31, 2010.

Walton resigned from his job as special prosecutor in March 2008 and unsuccessfully tried to cancel the Westlaw contract, according to the October 11 decision. He took a job with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, where he continued to access the Westlaw account. During that time, the Palau government paid the Westlaw bill.

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