Don’t

by Walter Olson on July 20, 2013

When representing the leader of a violent sect, don’t smuggle out of jail purportedly personal papers that in fact contain your client’s alleged hit list of witnesses, then lie to investigators about it [Lorna Brown, recommended for a two-year suspension, KTVU, Contra Costa Times; a disciplinary judge recommended against disbarment because Brown, who had represented Yusuf Bey IV of the notorious Your Black Muslim Bakery, "eventually admitted what she did and expressed remorse," did not appear to realize the papers' contents, and lacked a prior disciplinary record] In a character letter, “veteran Oakland criminal defense attorney James Giller, a former president of the Alameda County Bar Association, told the judge” that Brown has an excellent reputation: “She may have made a mistake but we all do that. We all screw up.” [Berkeley Patch] More: Ted Frank.

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Ethics roundup - Overlawyered
08.13.13 at 12:30 am

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1 Richard Nieporent 07.20.13 at 11:16 am

Brown’s recognition of wrongdoing “assures the court that her misconduct is unlikely to reoccur,” McElroy said.

Unlikely to occur?!! Is that that all the assurance we should expect? How about Brown’s disbarment will assure that her misconduct will never be repeated.

McElroy said Brown “knew it was wrong to take the card out of the jail but did it out of the sympathy she felt for her client (Bey).”
However, she said Brown clearly “now understands the gravity of her misconduct.”

Who are we dealing with here, a high school dropout or a lawyer who has been practicing law for 22 years? If she were willing to knowingly violate the law, then she deserves to be permanently disbarred.

2 Isabelle 07.20.13 at 1:47 pm

There are SO MANY lawyers who need to get disbarred. A woman called me who had paid a lawyer $27,000 to prepare a federal habeas for her husband and he filed it – seven months late. Did not bother to tell them. The Bar told them there was nothing they could do. Stuff like that makes me sick.

3 Jack Olson 07.21.13 at 9:52 am

Nieporent, Isabelle, on an annual basis one American lawyer out of about every 2,000 is disbarred. That figure does not include those who voluntarily surrender their licenses. Most states do not allow permanent disbarment, so only one disbarment in ten is actually permanent. A lawyer in my state was allowed to get her license back after conviction for attempted murder. Later, she was put on probation for swindling clients. After that, she was suspended for three years for swindling more clients. She is not currently practicing law, but she still is eligible to apply to get her license back.

When you ask lawyers to account for their profession’s disgraceful reputation, they usually answer that this is the work of a small minority of lawyers who disgrace the honest majority. Yet, when one of them does so, that majority can’t be bothered to bar him from the legal profession even though that profession is supposed to be self-regulating. As long as you lawyers tolerate skunks among you, you will be told that you stink because in fact you stink even if you hold your noses. If you don’t want to be told that you stink, then you must cease to stink, and the way to do that is to kick the skunks out. We laymen would gladly permanently disbar a stinking criminal like Lorna Brown but only you have the power, which you appear unwilling to use. You can kick out the skunks or you can stink, and as matters stand it seems you prefer to stink.

4 Richard Nieporent 07.21.13 at 3:45 pm

@Jack Olson

The information you provided is depressing but not surprising. The real purpose of any professional organization, not unlike a union, is to protect its membership, not to police its membership. By having a bar association, lawyers can claim that they are making sure that its members uphold a standard of conduct. This façade is used to prevent an outside group from being given the power to police the legal profession and force it to live up to its professed ethical standards.

5 Bob Lipton 07.22.13 at 7:33 am

We all screw up, Mr. Giller? How have you screwed up enough to get you suspended or disbarred?

Bob

6 No Name Guy 07.22.13 at 12:07 pm

I propose that the Lawyer disciplinary board be staffed by an impartial set of members drawn from the……medical and engineering professions. ;-) Paybacks are heck.

7 Matt 07.22.13 at 1:39 pm

But Brown said in legal papers that she thought the documents were only love letters to Bey IV’s girlfriend and “spiritual teachings and sermons” meant for his mother.

This is not even remotely plausible. Bey had other avenues of communication available to him that were sufficiently confidential vis a vis the general public (versus confidential as against prison officials). If Brown thought about the contents of the document at all it would have occurred to her that Bey was specifically attempting to avoid scrutiny by prison officials, and that should have prompted further scrutiny on her part. Knowingly doing wrong is one thing; knowingly doing wrong when the likely consequences of the wrong are obvious to anyone who cares to look is another thing entirely.

8 Ben 07.22.13 at 6:01 pm

“I propose that the Lawyer disciplinary board be staffed by an impartial set of members drawn from the……medical and engineering professions.”

I’d do that in a heartbeat.

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