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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 at Law.Com this past week, undocumented immigrant, Sergio Garcia, is challenging the California Supreme Court for his right to become an attorney.  Garcia’s application for a green card has been pending for 18 years, when his father applied for him when he was 17.  Seems a mighty long time to wait for a green card.

Garcia enrolled in community college and later transferred to California State University, Chico, where he had to pay out-of-state tuition rates because of his undocumented status.  After taking four years of night classes, Garcia received his J.D. from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico in May 2009. He passed the bar exam on his first try two months later.

Garcia said he never worried that his immigration status would stop him from becoming a lawyer. Prior to 2008 the bar didn’t ask applicants about their residency, a spokeswoman confirmed.  But when Garcia applied for his moral character review in late 2009 he got the question. He wrote in the answer “pending.” Months went by with no response.

“Everybody told me, ‘Sergio, you sound like a nice guy, but it’s nothing we want to get involved in. It’s a personal struggle,'” he said. “At that point I started googling State Bar law firms.”  That’s when he found the husband-and-wife legal team of Jerome Fishkin and Lindsay Slatter, whose three-attorney Walnut Creek firm specializes in cases involving applications and disciplinary cases pending before the State Bar.

Last fall, the Committee on Bar Examiners forwarded its recommendation that Garcia be admitted to the bar to the state Supreme Court. Fishkin said he and Slatter figured the case would be settled one way or the other, in private, with a minute order. But then in May, the court publicly asked for briefing in the case.

The Committee of Bar Examiners, as well as attorney general Kamala Harris, has argued that Garcia should be admitted to the bar because law licensure is the purview of the state Supreme Court, not the federal government.

Even though the Obama administration has opposed his bid to join the State Bar, Garcia has spent recent days helping young adults apply for so-called deferred action, the new federal program that will protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, at least temporarily. Garcia is four years too old to qualify for the deferral. He said he’s not bitter.

Garcia is keenly aware that his story reads like a made-for-the-big-screen tale. That’s why the ambitious 35-year-old is writing his autobiography. Publishers and producers are already calling, he said.

“It’s on hold for now,” Garcia said in a recent interview. “I’m waiting for the happy ending.”

Another California case worth watching.  What are your thoughts on Mr. Garcia’s case?

 

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After nine years of debate, the State Bar adopted 67 proposed ethics rules to govern California lawyers’ professional conduct. The rules require Supreme Court approval before taking effect, and although the court is free to reject or return any of the proposals for further work, they offer a behavioral roadmap for attorneys and provide clear guidance in particular areas that have been confusing or controversial, and result in discipline for those who ignore them.

Although a rules revision commission was appointed to bring California’s rules in line with the ABA Model Rules, the state — in fact the only state whose rules are not patterned after the Model Rules — will continue to differ in 12 key areas, four involving fees. The rules were last revised in 1987, and since beginning its work, the commission has held seven public hearings, sought public response to its recommendations six times and received 530 written comments. Even as the final deadline loomed last month, the group sent out seven final rules for one last round of public input.

The rules can be divided into two categories: those that were changed to mirror more closely the ABA Model Rules, and those that remain distinctly Californian.

The first category includes rules that address lawyer advertising/solicitation; supervision of lawyer and nonlawyer subordinates; sexual relations with clients; aggregate settlements; limited legal service programs; trial publicity; and dealings with represented and unrepresented persons.

The areas that are substantially different from the Model Rules include the bar’s rejection of the so-called “snitch” rule and retention of California standards governing client secrets, unconscionable fees, competence and moral turpitude.  To read the breakdown of these differences, see them at the California Bar Journal article.

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California Supreme Court on  Prop 8 Day of Dec...
Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

In an article appearing in JDSupra, written by Larry Bodine,  the California Supreme Court ruled in Simpson Strong-Tie Co. v. Gore on May 17, 2010 that a plaintiff lawyer who was seeking clients for a possible class action lawsuit had a right to publish an advertisement regarding defective decks on homes. The maker of screws for decks sued Gore for libel, false advertising and unfair business practices. Gore won at trial and on appeal. The state Supreme Court ruled that the lawyer was entitled to invoke the state anti-SLAPP statute to protect his free speech rights in publishing the ad.

This case originated in Santa Clara County and is good news for attorneys with regards to advertising.  If you would like to read the entire Supreme Court ruling, click here.

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In case you missed it in late November, the California Supreme Court upheld the attorney-client privilege in Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Superior Court (Randall), upholding the protection afforded confidential attorney-client communications and affirming the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship. The decision vacated a trial court ruling which ordered that a redacted attorney opinion letter to the client be produced to opposing counsel.

For a complete review of the decision you can see it here.

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