In another ABA Journal article, a lawyer in Kansas who told jurors his capital murder client was a “professional drug dealer” and a “shooter of people” has been disbarred for “inexplicable incompetence.”

The Kansas Supreme Court posted its opinion (PDF) on Friday as well as a video of oral arguments in which Dennis Hawver appeared dressed as Thomas Jefferson. (A good shot of his attire is at five minutes and 17 seconds; his argument begins at 22 minutes and 38 seconds.) The Wichita Eagle has coverage.

The video of the Supreme Court hearing is long, almost 42 minutes, and it is sad to watch the attorney argue to keep his license, all the while dressed as Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. Hawver’s explanation for his attire was that Jefferson is his hero and said he wore the outfit because he had a constitutional right to represent the client “as directed, instructed and agreed” by the client, “no matter what the ABA guidelines have to say.”

YouTube Preview Image

 

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According to an article in the ABA Journal, The State Bar of California is firing back after its former executive director claimed in a lawsuit that he was fired for exposing “egregious improprieties.”

The bar says the lawsuit by fired executive director Joe Dunn is “baseless” and his claims of being a whistleblower are

Senator Joe Dunn 2

Senator Joe Dunn 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“bewildering” because it was his job to manage the bar’s operations and employees.

Dunn claimed in his lawsuit (PDF) that he was told of his firing Nov. 7, just days after he and seven other anonymous complainants filed whistleblower notices with the bar. The bar publicly announced Dunn’s departure last Thursday, and Dunn filed his suit a few hours later.

The state bar emphasizes different points in the timeline of events.

“The lawsuit filed by Mr. Dunn is baseless,” the statement says, “and falsely suggests that the termination decision was motivated by the receipt of letters from [Dunn’s] attorney Mark Geragos stating that unnamed whistleblowers had complaints regarding state bar officials and operations.”

“At no time prior to Nov. 13 was Joe Dunn ever identified as a whistleblower, and he never brought any such claims to the board,” the statement says. “Indeed, it’s bewildering to hear Mr. Dunn claim he is a whistleblower since as the executive who is head of the entire organization he is responsible for managing operations and the over 500 employees, and he only belatedly raised claims after he was given notice of termination of his employment agreement, and after a settlement discussion with his counsel at the Girardi & Keese firm reached an impasse on Nov. 12.” Dunn was never identified as a whistleblower during those discussions, the bar said.

Many accusations by both Dunn and the Bar have been made.  You can check out the first article in the ABA Journal here and the subsequent article here.  Go to this link, for more on the current article in the ABA Journal.

 

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The California Bar Journal reported that due to budget cuts, the state’s trial courts have been devastated. To see where the closures have occurred in your county and which parts of the state have been hit the hardest, click on this link.  On the Interactive Map, if you run your mouse over the counties, it will show you how many courtrooms were closed.  Also, you can take a poll on how you and your clients have been affected by the budget cuts.

I know for our county, we are seeing longer lines at the clerk’s office, less people behind the counter to assist the public, and many documents now have to be dropped for filing.

 

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What is this world coming too?  I know attorneys get upset, disgusted and irritated with another attorney at times, but stabbing them?  Come on!!!

schmuhls

Alecia and Andrew Schmuhl

I read an article in the ABA Journal that the suspects Alecia Schmuhl, 30, and Andrew Schmuhl, 31, of Springfield, Virginia, knocked on the door of the home of the victims, Leo and and Sue Fisher, both 61 years of age and stabbed them. The Schmuhls are charged with abduction and malicious wounding, and they remain in custody in Fairfax County.

It seems that Alecia Schmuhl worked for Leo Fisher’s firm beginning in 2013 and recently left the firm. Andrew Schmuhl was a former judge advocate in the U.S. Army.  You can read the ABA Journal article here.

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As reported in an article by Julie A. Goren, Esq., there is a new Court holiday coming in 2015.  Ms. Goren’s article in part states:

“AB 1973 “an act to amend Section 6700 of the Government Code, relating to holidays” jumped out at me. What changed? As of January 1, 2015, the fourth Friday in September, known as “Native American Day,” is added to the list of “holidays in this state.”

This will mean those of us who calendar for our attorneys, and you know how fun that can be, need to make sure this holiday is put into our systems for calculation of service, etc.

For more on this new holiday, and how the drafter of the bill had no idea that Native American Day would be considered a Court Holiday, see the article posted by Ms. Goren here.

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Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner and Kern County Superior Court Judge Cory Woodward exhibited the “height of irresponsible and improper behavior” with their “intimate relationship[s],” the Commission on Judicial Performance said.

“It reflects an utter disrespect for the dignity and decorum of the court and is seriously at odds with a judge’s duty to avoid conduct that tarnishes the esteem of the judicial office in the public’s eye,” the order imposing censure on Steiner said.

Read more: http://www.therecorder.com/id=1202668718176/Two-Judges-Draw-Censures-for-Courthouse-Sexual-Affairs#ixzz3CScEeON0

According to the article, neither judge was removed from the bench, because they admitted having sex in chambers and showed remorse.  This goes to show that even judges make wrong decisions.

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Paralegals and attorneys beware!  According to a recent article in The Recorder, sending that email to the wrong person can be a possible legal malpractice claim in the future.

“Emails sent in certain practices, such as commercial or residential real estate and other commercial transactions, are at a higher risk of being forwarded to third parties without the attorney’s consent. Clients in these areas believe a title opinion or a corporate authority opinion that is good for one purpose is good for all purposes, but forwarding emails and opinions creates risks.

For the attorney, there is the risk that opinions, which were transmitted for a single purpose in a unique context, may be transmitted for use in connection with unintended purposes or unrelated contexts. For the client, there is the risk of the waiver of the attorney-client privilege. And for the recipient, there is the risk of detrimental reliance on an opinion that does not apply to facts and circumstances for which the email was forwarded.”

There are things the legal staff and attorney can do to protect itself in the event this occurs, such as adding content to the email footer that can be automatically attached by the system to every outgoing email. The footer can be used, among other things, to include an attorney-client privilege notice or to address the risks of forwarded emails by putting recipients on notice of the boundaries for acceptable and permissible use of the content of the email.

There are however, no magic words approved by the Court for this purpose.  Also, “Courts have generally held that such a label attached by an attorney means little in deciding whether a communication is entitled to protection under either the attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine.”

The opinions of the American Bar Association, the Courts and the many state bar associations have varied on the effectiveness of such a footer. However, it appears there is some increased protection in the liability context if attorneys adopt language in their emails that parallels the inadvertent disclosure language applicable in the discovery context.

In California, generally, where it is evident the client had not made the disclosure, the lawyer did not intend to disclose confidential information and the inadvertently disclosed document was clearly marked as confidential, no waiver will be found. See State Compensation Insurance Fund v. WPS, 70 Cal.App.4th 644 (1999).

In California, once an attorney realizes privileged information has been received, the attorney must immediately notify the sender and attempt to resolve the issue. See Rico v. Mitsubishi Motors, 42 Cal.4th 807 (2007); State Comp. Ins. Fund v. WPS, 70 Cal.App.4th 644 (1999).

“While never sufficient to “un-ring the bell” once the privileged email has been read, inadvertent disclosure instructions can increase an attorney’s ability to potentially obtain some relief after discovery of the problem.”

As stated in this article, “as applied to a footer, the language addressing both the risk of forwarded emails or inadvertent emails might contain the following:

 

NOTICE: This email and all attachments are CONFIDENTIAL and intended SOLELY for the recipients as identified in the “To,” “Cc” and “Bcc” lines of this email. If you are not an intended recipient, your receipt of this email and its attachments is the result of an inadvertent disclosure or unauthorized transmittal. Sender reserves and asserts all rights to confidentiality, including all privileges that may apply. Pursuant to those rights and privileges, immediately DELETE and DESTROY all copies of the email and its attachments, in whatever form, and immediately NOTIFY the sender of your receipt of this email. DO NOT review, copy, forward, or rely on the email and its attachments in any way. NOTICE: NO DUTIES ARE ASSUMED, INTENDED, OR CREATED BY THIS COMMUNICATION. If you have not executed a fee contract or an engagement letter, this firm does NOT represent you as your attorney. You are encouraged to retain counsel of your choice if you desire to do so. All rights of the sender for violations of the confidentiality and privileges applicable to this email and any attachments are expressly reserved.”

The inclusion of the above description serves three purposes.

1) it highlights the communications as protected so an unintended recipient cannot claim he was unaware of the privilege issue until after the email was read; 2) it reinforces the intent to preserve and protect the privileged nature of the communication and makes clear no waiver was intended; and 3),perhaps the most significant, it distinguishes the email from other emails that may not be privileged.

Of course, emails still get read, even where they are unintentionally sent. These two steps—changing the footer and the subject line—at least provide some additional protections from those situations.

The above information can also be found in the book, California Legal Malpractice Law.  I have nothing to do with the writing, editing or distribution of this book.

I think I will be editing my footer immediately.  Hopefully, knock on wood, I will never have to worry about this but I would rather be safe than sorry.

 

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According to the ABA Journal, a Connecticut lawyer has been suspended for four months and barred from representing female clients for the rest of his career after he was accused of representing women in family law and domestic-violence cases in violation of a 2010 court order.

The disciplinary counsel had initially sought disbarment for lawyer Ira Mayo, alleging he had violated the court order at least 11 times, the Connecticut Law Tribune reports. Mayo agreed to the suspension and ban on representing women to resolve the disciplinary complaint.

Mayo was accused in two prior ethics cases, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune. In the first he was suspended for 15 months after he was accused of making unwanted advances to female clients referred to him by a group for abused women, the story says. In the second, he was banned from representing women in family law or domestic violence cases after he was accused of offering to waive attorney fees in exchange for a massage.

The short suspension for lawyer Ira Mayo outraged a woman who filed a recent grievance against Mayo after he represented her on assault charges in a domestic-violence case, the Connecticut Law Tribune says. Leah Castro called the short suspension “a slap on the wrist” and told Connecticut Law Tribune she believed he should be disbarred.

Some of the comments on this ruling are below:

“As an attorney, it is clear to me this man should be disbarred.  As a woman, the actions of the Connecticutt Discipline system indicates a problem with their valuation of these issues.  Consider if the discipline would be the same if this man repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances and actions against males.  I think not.  As a retired prosecutor, it is clear this man is a sexual predator.  Another reason to disbar.”

As a young solo practitioner in a small town I took over the office lease from a downsizing sole practitioner who specialized in small divorce actions – great location right across the street from the courthouse. Ground floor storefront + a great brick loft style mezzanine with a skylight.

He said that I could buy as much of the office furniture as I wished except for one piece and he pointed to a cheep looking 3’x3’x3’ laminated cube on which he had placed a coffee maker and cups. Puzzled, I asked “what is it”. He then pulled out a tab and out flopped … a spring loaded single bed. He then looked at me with a mischievous grin and quickly added “I have negotiated many a fee on this bed! It has too much sentimental value for me to part with.

He was not an attractive man; 60; fleshy, paunchy, and red cheeked from 5,000 too many liquid lunches. I was literally speechless.

Apparently this kind of thing used to go on 30 years ago, a lot. Until then I had never heard of the practice.”

“I’m sitting here trying to imagine how a guy like this will fit his predatory predilection into a “men’s rights” style divorce practice, and I fear that the state bar in Connecticut may have created the practitioner’s version of Frankenstein.”

“I’m sure the next time the judge calls for order in the court, every response will end with “. . .and hold the Mayo.””

“Can he represent transgendered clients?”

“Household name divorce lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, who made a name suing actor Lee Marvin for “palimony” (and breaking new ground with the California Supreme Court) was then flooded with palimony cases and leased a upmarket office in Century City office complete with a Jacuzzi soaking tub in an anti-room off of his office. He was later accused by two clients of rape and reputedly had a habit of meeting with clients naked in his hot tub. he was never prosecuted for sexual impropriety.  (He was later sentenced in 1993 to 4 years in prison for tax fraud.)”

I don’t know about any of you, but this “suspension” seems a bit odd and clearly raises some interesting questions about who Mr. Mayo can represent.  I would be interested to know what any of you think of this suspension.

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In an article in the ABA Journal, it is reported that a former law student at the Massachusetts School of Law claims in a lawsuit that he received an unfair D grade in contracts.

The suit by Martin Odemena says the D grade resulted in a suspension and made it impossible for him to transfer to another law school, the National Law Journal reports. He is seeking more than $100,000 in damages for the lost legal career. The suit, filed Friday in Massachusetts federal court, claims violations of state consumer protection laws.D grade

Martin Odemena claims that he earned a D in his contracts class because professor Joseph Devlin counted the results of several quizzes—initially presented as optional—into his final grade.

Odemena filed a pro se suit on Friday in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts naming both Devlin and the law school as defendants. He seeks upwards of $100,000 in compensatory damages for not currently having a legal career, plus attorney fees and a declaration that the quiz results do not count toward his grade.

After receiving his low grade, Odemena was suspended and given a letter declaring that he was not in good standing with the law school. That letter, in turn, made it impossible for Odemena to transfer to another law school, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiff has tried all possible means to resolve this matter with the defendants without success, and the plaintiff has spent a lot of money retaining counsel in numerous attempts to resolve this matter with defendants,” the complaint reads. “Furthermore, since the defendants gave the plaintiff a not-good-standing letter because of the D grade in the contracts class, the plaintiff has suffered actual harm. Plaintiff could not get into any other law school with a not-good-standing letter, and his legal career is for all practical purposes over.”

This could be interesting, but I highly doubt it will survive the Motion to Dismiss that Peter Malaguti, who acts as the school’s general counsel, intends to file.  

In a case in Pennsylvania in 2013, student Megan Thode wasn’t happy about the C-plus she received for one class, saying the mediocre grade kept her from getting her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist — and, as a result, cost her $1.3 million in lost earnings.

A Northampton County judge rejected the claims of Ms. Thode, the former Lehigh University graduate, a verdict that upheld the school’s insistence that she earned the mark she got.

After four days of testimony in a civil trial last year, Judge Emil Giordano decided that the Bethlehem university neither breached a contract with nor sexually discriminated against Megan Thode.

Seems it might be tough to prove that you did not get the grade you feel you deserve, so I guess we will stay tuned to see what happens with Mr. Odemena’s case.

 

 

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A longtime secretary, paralegal and office manager for a since-disbarred California lawyer has been sentenced to two years and three months in federal prison for embezzling $327,000 from the firm and its clients.

The attorney she worked for, Brian Ching, was disbarred in 2012 for his failure to supervise Reyes adequately and other violations of legal ethics rules. An  ABA Journal article provides further details.

This case is a reminder to attorneys that they need to supervise their staff, no matter how much they trust them and a reminder to paralegals that they are not above the law.

 

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Category: Family Law  Comments off