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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.


“Two Fordham University law school classmates who set up a law practice together a few years after graduating are now both facing nine-month suspensions for pursuing a fraudulent personal injury case.” Daniel Levy and Shane Rios represented a woman who claimed to have slipped in front of a Yonkers church; when they investigated the sidewalks, they found no problem with the church’s, but did find a trip hazard in front of a house across the street. They advised her that she would have a winning case only against the homeowner, not the church, and she changed her story accordingly. They proceeded to conceal the original stance of the case both from the court and from a third lawyer they brought in to help. To the New York courts, this misconduct merited a suspension only of nine months. [ABA Journal, New York Law Journal]

P.S. “Maryland would have disbarred these clowns.” [@BruceGodfrey]


A judicial panel has given Nathaniel Weisel a nine-month suspension for his sins. Perhaps because it is too clear that not all addictions go away in nine months, Weisel (besides the suspension) was ordered to take the ethics portion of the bar exam and ‘appropriately address his pathological behavior’ prior to his reinstatement.” [Andrew Keshner, New York Law Journal; Jessica Dye, Reuters] The pathological behavior, as described by NYLJ, included the following:

In September 2009, a client of Weisel asked him to start a civil action, which he did not do. To assure the client the matter was being addressed, Weisel created a fraudulent settlement agreement, fictional index number, caption and settlement amount. He randomly chose an opposing counsel and forged his signature on the document. The fabrication was not filed in court. Before the client discovered the settlement had been fabricated, Weisel filed a valid Small Claims action. After the purportedly opposing counsel learned his signature had been forged, Weisel wrote him an apology and said he acted to give himself more time to properly file the action.


Lawyers roundup

by Walter Olson on March 4, 2013

  • Feds investigating prominent Texas attorney and many-time Overlawyered mentionee Mikal Watts [MySanAntonio via PoL]
  • Florida high court: lawyers not privileged to defame parties during informal witness questioning [Delmonico v. Traynor]
  • Client’s story: not only did attorney try to kill me, he also gave me bad advice [Lowering the Bar]
  • Some lawyers for city of Cleveland seek union representation, following municipal attorneys in S.F., D.C. and Houston [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
  • Watch what you say about lawyers, part CLXXVI [NYLJ, "shakedown"]
  • Former ATLA president Barry Nace fights disciplinary proceeding in W.V. [Chamber-backed WV Record]
  • Minnesota lawyer who billed client for time he spent having sex with her won’t be allowed to practice for more than a year [TheLawNet, earlier on this candidate for "ultimate Overlawyered story"]
  • Should she take the job offer from an apparently unethical attorney? If she has to ask… [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]

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Imagine how it would change the practice of litigation if lawyers could be held answerable for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on opponents, witnesses or third parties. Of course that’s not going to happen, since our legal profession is quite good at immunizing itself from exposure to liability for the same sorts of injuries that it sues over when inflicted by others. In this SSRN paper (via Robinette, TortsProf), Alex Long of the University of Tennessee proposes a presumption that lawyers’ behavior is “extreme and outrageous,” a precondition of IIED liability, if they could get disbarred for it.


California authorities have revoked the license to practice of attorney Michael T. Pines, who advised clients to break into their foreclosed homes [Funnell, earlier]

Pending further disciplinary action, the State Bar of California suspended the right to practice of Michael Pines, whose exploits had garnered considerable press attention [Amanda Bronstad, NLJ; earlier here and here]

Misleading investigators about the circumstances of your hit-run won’t do it, apparently. The lawyer in question has served as a traffic court judge. [Legal Profession Blog, ABA Journal, Randazza]

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“Inappropriate but did not amount to misconduct?” Really? [Crime and Federalism, Journal Sentinel; Calumet County, Wisconsin]


They’ve contributed to a recommended three-year suspension for San Francisco attorney Philip Kay. “Kay rose to fame with the Baker & McKenzie suit, earning him a reputation as the go-to plaintiff lawyer for sexual harassment suits.” [Mike McKee/The Recorder, California Civil Justice]

More: Via a commenter, this is said to be the official statement released by the office of Philip Edward Kay:

“This decision admits it used default, as punishment, in violation of Business & Professions Code §6068(i), because I asserted constitutional and statutory rights of attorney client privilege and work product before answering questions, and demanded the right to have these issues heard and determined by an article VI court of general jurisdiction to determine whether the questions sought privileged information, pursuant to State Bar Rules. The State Bar Court did this knowingly to allow the Office of Chief Trial Counsel the ability to lie about what the Superior Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court found in their orders and opinions regarding these important civil rights cases.

In these matters, only after the trial judges were reversed on appeal and disqualified, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure §§170, et seq., did they claim misconduct. So, either these judges lied in their orders denying misconduct, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure §657(1) – “irregularities in the proceedings,” OR they lied in their testimony in the State Bar trial. This will create an uncertain and chilling effect by allowing unfit and disgruntled judges to lie about the record and impugn lawfully obtained civil rights verdicts, which have been upheld by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The State Bar Court has allowed these disqualified judges to attack and undermine the very verdicts, which, they could not touch in the trial court under statutory and case law in California.”

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“A Seattle civil-rights attorney who was disbarred earlier this month after the state Supreme Court unanimously found that he had gouged some clients and bullied others into unwanted settlements has sued the Washington State Bar Association, claiming its investigation was rife with errors and conflicts of interest.” [Seattle Times]

April 24 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 24, 2009

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The California state bar has charged San Francisco attorney Philip Kay, famed for sexual harassment lawsuits, “with turning two cases before three San Diego judges into three-ring circuses by repeatedly impugning court orders and caustically accusing the judges of misconduct in front of jurors. Prosecutors also claim Kay entered into an illegal fee-splitting agreement in his most high-profile case — a sexual harassment suit against mega-law firm Baker & McKenzie that in 1994 resulted in a $6.9 million San Francisco jury award for his client, former legal secretary Rena Weeks. (The judgment was later reduced to $3.5 million.)” The title quote is from San Diego judge Joan Weber, and refers to Kay’s conduct in a sexual harassment suit against Ralphs Grocery. (Mike McKee, “Famed Plaintiffs Lawyer Faces Bar Charges Over Conduct”, The Recorder, Dec. 5).


“In the wake of a disciplinary hearing against a top local prosecutor, the union that represents Santa Clara County prosecutors and public defenders is asking the California District Attorneys Association to sponsor a bill that would essentially curb the power of the state bar to punish all lawyers. …The proposal follows a recommendation by the state bar that Deputy District Attorney Ben Field be suspended from practicing law for three years — a punishment of unprecedented severity against a Santa Clara County prosecutor. Field is charged with committing misconduct in four criminal cases dating back to 1995, including misleading judges, defying court orders and concealing critical evidence from defense lawyers in pursuit of convictions.” The union objects (among other things) to letting disciplinary authorities look that far into the past for bad behavior. (Tracey Kaplan, “Prosecutors seek to curb powers of disciplinary board”, San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 7) (via Legal Ethics Forum).