One has to hope this kind of thing doesn’t happen often [press release, Office of the U.S. Attorney, District of New Jersey]:
A former attorney in the Haddonfield, N.J., office of a firm specializing in toxic tort litigation today admitted that he falsified defendants’ names in more than 100 asbestos suits filed in New York State courts in order to increase business and his standing in the firm, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Arobert C. Tonogbanua, 44, of Sicklerville, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud. During the proceeding, Tonogbanua admitted that he fraudulently inserted the names of his former law firm’s clients into legitimately filed asbestos suits and charged the clients more than $1 million in attorney’s fees, costs and settlements to defend them.
[via Legal NewsLine; South Jersey Times] For a retrospective on the Lynn Boyd Stites/”Alliance” scam of years ago, in which a circle of defense lawyers in Los Angeles used manufactured litigation to harvest fees, see clips here, here, here, and here.
Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Daniel Muessig has set the bar high [Deadspin] More: Scott Greenfield, and yet more about whether criminal defense lawyers really do those things.
Menlo Park, Calif.: A 90-year-old lawyer’s BMW SUV jumped the curb and pinned two 6-year-old twin brothers against a wall, seriously injuring them. Now the driver, Edward Nelson, “states in his response to the lawsuit that the plaintiffs ‘carelessly, recklessly and negligently conducted and maintained themselves’ in a way that contributed to the accident. Furthermore, ‘knowing the probable consequences thereof, (they) placed themselves in a position of danger and voluntarily participated in all the activities,’ and so assumed any related risks. Finally, the plaintiffs failed to ‘reasonably mitigate’ any damages they sustained.” [Sandy Brundage, The Almanac (Peninsula communities, Bay Area)]
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.
Great moments in criminal defense, as revealed at a murder trial in Washington, D.C. [WaPo] Eric Turkewitz has many more links on the story, and also is put in mind of a lawyer advertising angle.
A disciplinary committee said it lacked probable cause to charge a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer from Jacksonville, though it described his billing standards as “not consistent with the high standards of our profession.” [ABA Journal, Florida Times-Union]
Whether or not these are the very creepiest, Cracked has found some instances where law firms might want to rethink the artwork or slogans on their sites. Not included, mercifully, is the Texas law firm that yanked several tasteless stock photos from its website last year after setting off a blogosphere furor.
I met the noted criminal defense lawyer once when we appeared on the same talk show. Somehow I didn’t realize he was the one who defended Oliver Jovanovic, target of a dubious (to say the least) sex-crime prosecution in the 1990s. [Gillers, Legal Ethics Forum]