Thursday, August 20, 2020

New advisory opinions in Ohio

 The Legal Profession blog is reporting that the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct issued four opinions to replace or modify opinions previously issued by the board under the former Code of Professional Responsibility.

The opinions cover the following topics: 

1. Ethical obligations of a lawyer and his or her law firm when the lawyer decides to depart the firm (Advisory Opinion 2020-06)

2. The use of a lawyer’s name in a law firm name or on letterhead after the lawyer registers with the Supreme Court as “retired”, “inactive”, or becomes “of counsel” to the firm. (Advisory Opinion 2020-07)

3.  Whether lawyers can provide financial planning services through their law firm on a fixed fee, flat, or hourly rate basis (Advisory Opinion 2020-08), and 

4. Whether a law firm may enter into an arrangement with a real estate agency to promote the law firm as a discounted service provider to its real estate clients in exchange for an annual fee paid by the firm to the agency. (Advisory Opinion 2020-09).

The Legal Profession blog has a short summary of each opinion here.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Suspension Recommended For Judge Accused Of Calling Juror ‘Aunt Jemima'

Not too surprisingly, the ethics complaint says the judge failed to promote public confidence in the judiciary; manifested bias or prejudice in the performance of his duties; and failed to conduct himself in a patient, dignified, and courteous manner.  

Above the Law has the story here.

Utah Supreme Court adopts significant changes to regulation of the practice of law

Last week the Utah Supreme Court unanimously approved a number of reforms that allow for non-lawyer ownership or investment in law firms and permit legal services providers to try new ways of serving clients.  One commentator has called the reforms "the most sweeping changes in a generation to the regulation of law practice and the delivery of legal services." See here.

This is a significant change to the regulation of the practice of law in the US.  Other countries allow what is usually referred to as "alternative business structures" for the practice of law; but the profession in the US has long resisted opening the practice of law to investors or non-lawyers.  

Utah has decided to give it a try for a couple of years to see what happens.  See the Utah Courts press release here.

The ABA Journal has more on the story here.  

Friday, August 14, 2020

Pennsylvania's newly adopted anti-discrimination rule (based on Model Rule 8.4(g)) won't go into effect until December but a lawsuit has already been filed claiming it is unconstitutional

Back in June, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted a revised version of the controversial anti-discrimination Model Rule (ABA Model Rule 8.4(g)). Last week a lawyer sued the state disciplinary authorities, saying the new rule (scheduled to go into effect in December) violates his free speech rights.

You can read the text of the rule here and a critique of if here, which explains that over the last four years, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania proposed three different versions of an anti-harassment.  According to this author, the approved version disregards earlier concerns about whether the rule may violate the First Amendment.

And now it is possible the courts will have to address that precise question because last week an attorney with the non-profit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking an injunction to block enforcement of the rule.  The complaint alleges that Pennsylvania’s Rule 8.4(g) will force the lawyer “to censor himself to steer clear of an ultimately unknown line so that his speech is not at risk of being incorrectly perceived as manifesting bias or prejudice.”

Bloomberg Law has more on this story here.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Judge imposes fine on DA for not disclosing documents in case involving use of fake subpoenas

Long time readers of this blog might remember that earlier this year I reported about a series of complaints filed against the Orleans Parish DA's office arguing that the DA's office had been using fake subpoenas (with false threats of fines and imprisonment) to coerce cooperation from witnesses and victims of crimes.  One lawsuit was filed by the MacArthur Justice Center, another one was filed by the ACLU and yet another lawsuit targeted the DA's office and the DA directly for violating the law and citizens' rights. (That one is still pending because the defendants were denied immunity by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, making it far more likely someone will be held personally responsible).  See here.

I am writing about this today because the MacArthur Center lawsuit is back in the news.  TechDirt is reporting that the judge in the case has issued a $51,000 judgment against District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for his office’s failure to turn over bogus subpoenas under a public-records request filed two years before the practice was exposed.

The judge's ruling stated that Cannizzaro acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when he failed to disclose the documents requested by an attorney for a nonprofit law firm who was probing the practice in 2015.

According to the MacArthur Center, the $50,000 penalty may end up being applied against Cannizzaro personally rather than to his office.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

ABA adopts amendment to Model Rule 1.8(e) to allow financial assistance to pro bono clients -- UPDATED

Back in May I reported (here) that a proposal was going to be brought up at the annual ABA meeting to amend Model Rule 1.8(e) which would allow lawyers to provide financial assistance to pro bono litigation clients.  

The meeting ended recently and it is now official that the ABA's House of Delegates adopted what is now probably going to be known as the "humanitarian" exception to MR 1.8(e).   The vote,  was 378 to 16. 

UPDATE: You can read (or download) a copy of the approved language here.

A list of (and links to) all the resolutions approved by the ABA at the annual meeting is available here.

Thanks to Karen Rubin for the links!


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Podcast on the termination of Washington's pioneering LLLTs program

At a time when several states are trying to adopt regulatory reforms to try to provide better access to legal services (see herehere and here), as I reported here, the Supreme Court of Washington decided to terminate its LLLT program.  It was the first in the country to regulate a system to allow non-lawyers to provide some legal services.

As you probably know, not everyone agrees that eliminating the program was a good idea, and yesterday Above the Law published a story reporting that the editorial board of the Seattle Times seems to be trying to put some pressure to get the program restored.  Take a look at the story here.

Also, there is a new podcast discussing the program and its termination in the Legal Talk Network.  You can listen to it by using the play button below or by going here.