Saturday, January 23, 2010

How not to practice law: sue your own client

Just about a year ago I discussed the case of US v Beltrán Moreno as a remarkable example of incomptence (see here). This was the case of the judge who imposed a lower sentence than that mandated by law, the prosecutor who did not catch the error and the attorney who appealed the case not knowing that if he won the appeal his clients would end up getting a higher sentence. I thought it would be hard to find a better example of complete incompetence.

Yet, here comes a report from the North Carolina State Bar on a lawyer who was disciplined for filing a claim on behalf on one client against another one of his own clients. Yes, you heard right. This genius sued his own client.

Now, this case does raise an interesting question. What is the best way to deal with this level of misconduct? I mean, what this guy did was clearly incompetent. What should we do about it? Should he be disbarred? ... censured? ... suspended?

I am not sure this is a case where it is in anyone's benefit to impose those kinds of sanctions, do you? I don't think that simply admonishing him is enough, but I also don't think that disbarring him is necessarily warranted (assuming the guy does not have a sustained record of misconduct or incompetence). How would you feel about imposing a suspension during which he would have to go back to law school to take a course on Professional Responsibility?

For a couple more details (there aren't that many) on the story go here.

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