Details, always those pesky details: “A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of 750 tobacco suits, citing this major problem: The Florida law firm that brought the cases had mistakenly identified 588 dead smokers as still being alive.” [ABA Journal]
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.
…are likely to be bad news in more ways than one [Belleville, Ill., News-Democrat on arrest of St. Clair County, Ill. Circuit Judge Michael Cook] St. Clair County is adjacent to Madison County in the Metro-East area of Illinois near St. Louis, and shares in its reputation as a “difficult” jurisdiction for unwary litigants. More: AP today.
It started with an insult-filled letter to a patent examiner that quickly made the rounds in the legal blogosphere (“Are you drunk? No, seriously … are you drinking scotch and whiskey with a side of crack cocaine while you ‘examine’ patent applications?”) In Round Two, the incensed attorney goes after patent-law blogger Dennis Crouch of Patently-O, who brought the letter to the web’s attention. [Above the Law]
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.
Please don’t do these [in some cases alleged] things:
- Calif.: “Judge accused of stealing elderly neighbor’s $1.6M life savings resigns from bench” [ABA Journal]
- Stan Chesley joins a rogue’s gallery of disgraced litigators [Paul Barrett/Business Week, earlier here, etc.]
- San Francisco’s Alioto firm: “Attorney and law firm must pay $67K …for ‘vexatious’ suit challenging airline merger” [ABA Journal, Andrew Longstreth/Reuters (Joseph Alioto: "badge of honor"), Ted Frank/PoL (sanctions are small change compared with enormous fees obtainable through merger challenges]
- N.J.: “Lawyer takes state plea, will pay $1M to widow’s estate” [ABA Journal]
- Texas: “State Rep. Reynolds charged with 7 others in barratry scheme” [SETR]
- “Paul Bergrin, ‘The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,’ Convicted at Last” [David Lat/Above the Law, earlier]
- “Attorney’s mug shot winds up next to his law firm’s ad, in marketing effort gone awry” [Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
- Once the American legal profession reformed itself, but that was long ago [John Steele Gordon]
If you’re high-ranking figures in a federal prosecutor’s office, don’t resort to pseudonymous rants on comment boards to settle scores, especially not if it means commenting on open cases that your office is handling [three now-resigned officials from the U.S. Attorney's office in New Orleans; WWL, Gambit, Daily Mail]
If you’re a lawyer who specializes in defending DWIs (or even if you’re not) it’s probably a poor idea to charge your clients extra for getting their court records backdated [Charlotte Observer; ABA Journal; James Crouch, Wake County, N.C., takes plea and gives up law license]
Errant West Virginia attorney: “Mr. Robinson committed a criminal offense by beating Mr. Gump, his client, with a baseball bat” [Charleston Gazette]
The Texas Supreme Court has sent back for further adjudication a controversy in which two newspapers had failed to win a summary judgment motion in a libel case filed against them. It took judicial notice that the trial judge in the case had taken a plea bargain on racketeering charges that included having accepted a $8,000 bribe to rule against the newspapers on the motion [ABA Journal]
…break and enter into the house of your client’s husband to retrieve her possessions [Albuquerque lawyer Raymond Van Arnam, fined, sentenced to weekend jail time and ordered to pay restitution, but not deprived of his law license, on charges of misdemeanor criminal trespass and misdemeanor larceny; Above the Law]
Curious goings-on during the sentencing process of a Vero Beach, Fla. lawyer gone wrong. [Vero Beach News]
Don’t (if you’re a lawyer seeking favorable rulings in your case) attract national attention by assailing the judge and other court officials as, among other epithets, “Popess,” “mindless numbnut,” “dastardly Jesuit,” and “bigoted Catholic beasts.” [Lowering the Bar, Minnesota]
Don’t call in a false drunk driving report on opposing counsel in a family law dispute [California via Mike Frisch/Legal Profession Blog]