Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NY Times article on the need for a system to provide attorneys to those who can't afford one for civil law cases

I have written before about the debate on whether the state should provide attorneys to litigants who can't afford them in civil litigation.  (Go here for a note describing Illinois' approach to the issue, and here for a link to a comment on the subject.)

Recently, the issue was back in the news again because The New York Times published this article.

Failure to communicate plea bargain offer can constitute ineffective assistance of counsel

The South Carolina Court of Appeals has found ineffective assistance of counsel in a case where the defendant was not advised of a ten-year plea offer before going to trial and getting twenty.  The case is called Chico Bell v. The State of South Carolina and you can read the opinion here.

Did the prosecutor in charge of the grand jury in Ferguson act unethically?

As we watch the events in Ferguson, Missouri unfold, here is a short comment by Prof. Monroe Freedman arguing the prosecutor in charge of the grand jury acted with a conflict of interest.

In an unrelated comment, another author argues the case should have been set for trial saying..
Ferguson prosecutor Robert McCulloch delivered a long-winded, smirking speech blaming social media, journalists, Ferguson residents, and pretty much everyone else who isn't Darren Wilson, for Darren Wilson shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown. It took McCulloch 10 minutes of hectoring before he revealed the grand jury had found no probable cause to indict Wilson, and the rest of the 45-minute speech, in which McCulloch seemed to be presenting evidence in Wilson's favor, felt more like defense attorney's argument than a prosecutor's. The very length of McCulloch's rambling statement, really, and the amount of evidence he felt compelled to argue against, was in and of itself a fair argument that the case should have gone to trial.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New ABA Formal Opinion on prosecutors who allow debt collection companies to pretend the prosecutors' office backs them up

The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued a new Formal Opinion (No. 469).  You can read the full opinion here.  The summary speaks for itself:
A prosecutor who provides official letterhead of the prosecutor’s office to a debt collection company for use by that company to create a letter purporting to come from the prosecutor’s office that implicitly or explicitly threatens prosecution, when no lawyer from the prosecutor’s office reviews the case file to determine whether a crime has been committed and prosecution is warranted or reviews the letter to ensure it complies with the Rules of Professional Conduct, violates Model Rules 8.4(c) and 5.5(a).

Monday, November 10, 2014

South Carolina Supreme Court recognizes the right of a beneficiary of a will or trust to sue a lawyer for malpractice

About ten days ago, in a case called Fabian v. Lindsay, the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized a cause of action, in both tort and contract, by a third-party beneficiary of an existing will or estate planning document against a lawyer whose drafting error defeats or diminishes the client's intent. The Court added that "[r]ecovery under either cause of action is limited to persons who are named in the estate planning document or otherwise identified in the instrument by their status. Where the claim sounds in both tort and contract, the plaintiff may elect a recovery."  You can read the opinion here.