Wednesday, February 11, 2009

#35 . . . How Far Can You Push An Attorney?

The answer is simple . . . all the way to the courthouse.

This post is somewhat off-topic, but still interesting food for thought. As I wait for the assorted lawsuits to meander their way through the court system, I research constantly and keep track of new cases that might affect our cases.

For example, a recent Supreme Court case caused me to toss out a stack of caselaw I had been assembling for my next motion. The Supremes decision did not go against my position, it summarized and clarified all the of the disparate and inconsistent applications of a certain legal doctrine. Clarified them in my favor, I might add.

However, back to the discussion at hand. There has been a case back east I've been watching. In a small nutshell:

1. An attorney (call him Floyd) sent some strongly worded demand letters and cease and desist letters to someone (call her Mary) threatening Mary with legal action if she continued on a certain course.

2. A second person (call him Joe), not related to Mary, apparently took it upon himself to file an ethics complaint with the state bar association on behalf of Mary and others claiming that Floyd was guilty of extortion and a plethora of other unethical acts.

3. Joe also made it all public, where they could potentially influence the legal positions of Floyd's client and Mary.

Okay, dokey . . . so attorney Floyd has been dragged into an ethics complaint before the Bar based on his actions as an attorney on his client's behalf. The fact that the complaint was filed has been made public. What does Floyd do?

Floyd sues Joe . . . . with a vengeance, for personal and professional defamation.

A year later, a jury comes back in favor of Floyd against Joe. To the tune of $225,000 . . . . In my research, this is the biggest jury award given to an attorney against someone who tried to use the legal ethics process as a cudgel in a civil legal situation.

Interesting times. An appeal will come and there may be some adjustment. However, based on my research, I don't think the verdict will be overturned.

I haven't gotten into the meaty details of Floyd's actions as an attorney and Joe's complaints regarding those actions, because they aren't the point.

The point is that the Legal Ethics Process in place in every Bar Association in the country is there for a reason.

1. That reason is NOT to use it in an attempt to influence the outcome of civil litigation.

2. That reason is NOT to attempt to intimidate attorneys or influence the actions they take on behalf of their clients.

3. That reason is NOT to try and ruin the professional reputation of an attorney.

4. That reason is NOT to attempt to influence public opinion, and try to make others, including the client, think badly of the attorney and question the attorney's ethics and abilities.

No matter what you think of an attorney, either professionally or personally, the Bar Association Ethics Process is not a legal weapon of mass destruction.

I think the reason I am interested in this case is obvious to all. If not, read the last few posts in this blog. Using the Bar complaint process and then alleging and including it in a pleading that will be read by the judge??? What possible reason could the person have for that except for reasons 1 - 4 listed above?

A last observation on the above case. Joe went pro se and represented himself in court. Every adult is entitled to represent themself in court. However, just because you can, doesn't mean you should . . . One of my first thoughts as I read the outcome of the case above was, "Pro Se is on the same page as Professional Suicide in the big book of Common Sense."

When you call out an attorney in their own house, you don't often get the results you want . . .

Thanks for hanging in during this long slow strange ride. Your friendship and support is appreciated.