Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Discipline for replying to online reviews improperly

One topic that has received a lot of attention this year is the question of how to reply to negative online reviews.  

Earlier this year, the ABA issued an ethics opinion concluding, among other things, that lawyers should not disclose confidential information when replying to negative online reviews. See here. Some time later, a Committee in Florida proposed to amend confidentiality rule to allow disclosure to reply to online criticism.  See here.

I am writing today about this because earlier this month, the Oregon Supreme Court reprimanded an attorney for violating the duty of confidentiality in response to negative online reviews.  The case has attracted some attention around the internet and you can read commentary on it in Lex BlogThe Legal Profession Blog, The Chicago Legal Malpractice Lawyer Blog, The ABA Journal, and the Lawyers Ethics Alert Blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Pennsylvania announces amendments to rule 8.4(g) which had been declared unconstitutional last year

 As you probably remember, back in December, a federal district court declared unconstitutional Pennsylvania's version of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) holding that it violated the First Amendment.  I wrote about the decision here and here.  

After appealing the decision, the Pennsylvania Bar voluntarily dismissed the appeal thus giving up the fight over the adopted version of the rule.  Instead, The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania set to work on finding a way to amend the rule in order to meet Constitutional scrutiny.  

Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court published the recommended changes, which will take effect on August 25.

The amended rule removes “by words” and “knowingly manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in,” provisions that were challenged in the suit. Several comments also were added defining harassment and discrimination. 

You can read the new version of the rule here.

How not to practice law: tell the judge "F@*! you"

 Do I really need to tell you this?  Really?   

I guess I do because a Missouri medical malpractice attorney has been ordered to spend a week in jail in a contempt order issued last week.

Above the law and the ABA Journal have the story.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Sixth Circuit rejects a challenge to Michigan's mandatory membership requirement

 Five days after I reported that the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the mandatory bar system used in Texas was unconstitutional, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected a challenge to the mandatory membership requirements imposed by the State Bar of Michigan. 

Jurist has the details here.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Florida Committee files final report recommending regulatory changes, including non-lawyer ownership of firms and legal technicians -- UPDATED

On June 28, the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services submitted its final report to the Florida Supreme Court, recommending that Florida adopt a new regulatory approach that would adopt the two most common new approaches to regulation seen in other states.

Among other things, the report recommends amending Florida’s Rule 5.4 to allow nonlawyers to have a non-controlling equity interest in Florida law firms, with restrictions.  It also recommends the approval of a program to allow qualified registered paralegals to assist clients in preparing and filing legal forms, provide information to clients regarding their legal matters, and provide ministerial assistance in court proceedings. All services in the program would have to be provided within a law office and are limited to specific areas of law (those in which litigants are often self-represented and access is limited).

You can read the report here, and some commentary on it here.

UPDATE 8/22/21:  The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) has a short comment here.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit finds that mandatory bar system used in Texas is unconstitutional

Long time readers of this blog might remember that I have been following the many lawsuits filed around the country alleging that mandatory membership to state bar associations is unconstitutional.  For my posts on this topic go here.

Today I am writing to report that the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently invalidated the mandatory bar system used in Texas finding that because the State Bar of Texas engages in political activities that fall outside the scope of the interests of all its members, it cannot force attorneys to join it and pay mandatory dues.  But the court also provides some options to remedy the problem.  As the court explains:

In sum, the Bar is engaged in non-germane activities, so compelling the plaintiffs to join it violates their First Amendment rights. There are multiple other constitutional options: The Bar can cease engaging in nongermane activities; Texas can directly regulate the legal profession and create a voluntary bar association, like New York’s; or Texas can adopt a hybrid system, like California’s. But it may not continue mandating membership in the Bar as currently structured or engaging in its current activities.

The case is called Mcdonald v.  Longley and you can read the opinion here.  

Courthouse News Service has more information here.  The Louisiana Legal Ethics Blog has commentary and a link to the opinion here.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Rudy Giuliani gets suspended in Washington DC

 About two weeks ago I reported that Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law was suspended by a court in New York.  One question that suspension raised, of course, was whether other jurisdictions in which he was licensed would suspend him "reciprocally" also.  Now we have the answer.

Last week a District of Columbia court suspended Giuliani from practicing law in the nation’s capital.  Because the suspension was just an order based on the fact that he was suspended already in another jurisdiction, the order was very short.  It essentially simply said that the D.C. court system had received a “certified copy” of New York’s decision to suspend Giuliani’s law license which triggered D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 11(d) related to “reciprocal discipline.”   Law & Crime has a good explanation here.  

For more coverage and commentary go to Above the Law, NPR, and Politico.

In addition, here is a short podcast discussing Giuliani's suspension and his possible future in the practice of law.  You can listen to it below by clicking on the play button or by going here.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Oregon's Board of Bar Examiners suggests supervised practice or law school experiential learning programs as bar exam alternatives for attorney licensure

The ABA Journal is reporting that the Oregon State Bar Board of Bar Examiners has adopted a task force report suggesting supervised practice or law school experiential-learning programs as bar exam alternatives for attorney licensure. The Oregon Supreme Court is now considering the recommendations in the report.

You can read the full report here.  

The report does not propose eliminating the use of a bar exam.  Candidates can still take the bar exam and use the results to gain admission, but the proposal now adds two alternative ways for admission.  For candidates who go to law school in Oregon, there is a law school experiential pathway, and for candidates who come from out of state, there is a supervised practice pathway. 

The ABA Journal has more details here.