Tuesday, September 27, 2022

How not to practice law: lie to your client and to the court to try to get out of representing a client

 Here is another installment on the "how not to practice law" series...

In today's story, the lawyer lied to the client and the court claiming to be suffering from cancer in order to have the court agree to let the lawyer withdraw from representation.  

And for this the lawyer is now agreeing to getting disbarred.

Moral of the story:  don't lie.  And especially, don't lie to the court.  Simple.  

Monday, September 26, 2022

Vermont approves multiple amendments to its Rules of Professional Conduct

Mike Kennedy, Vermont's Bar Counsel, reports that about two weeks ago, the Vermont Supreme Court approved several amendments to the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct.  The Court’s order is here.  Some of the amendments are pretty significant.  They include:

Paragraph (c) of Rule 1.2 has been amended to require a lawyer who assists a person to prepare documents that the lawyer knows the person will file in court to comply with any court rules that might require a seemingly self-represented litigant to disclose having received legal assistance.  

Rule 1.6 has been amended to create exceptions to the duty of confidentiality that allow disclosure of information to secure guidance from bar counsel and to detect conflicts of interest when changing jobs.

Rule 1.6 was also amended to adopt an affirmative duty to make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of or unauthorized access to client information.  This provision is in Model Rule 1.6(c).

The duty (in Rule 4.4) to notify the sender upon receiving information that the lawyer knows or should know was inadvertently sent has been expanded to “information” from “document.”

A paragraph was added to the comment to Rule 5.5 to clarify that lawyers who are not admitted to practice law in Vermont do not necessarily engage in the unauthorized practice of law by working remotely from Vermont. 

Rule 8.4(b) prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct that involves a “serious crime.”  The amendment broadens the definition of “serious crime.”

For the complete run down, go to Mike's post or watch this video in which he discusses amendments (which had not yet been adopted at the time of the video).

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Federal judge dismisses Trump's suit vs Hillary Clinton for being frivolous but does not impose sanctions

 If you have been watching the news lately you know that former President Trump has been having a terrible week in terms of legal matters.  Most the attention has focused on the reversal of part of the lower court's ruling in the Mar-a-Lago search case and on the civil claim filed in New York.  But there is another story that is more interesting to PR nerds like me and that has been mostly overlooked by the general media.

On September 8, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Trump against Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, Rep. Adam Schiff, and others that alleged that the defendants conspired to spread disinformation about his campaign during the 2016 presidential election. 

In the opinion (available here), the judge explicitly finds that many of the complaint’s allegations and claims lack factual support and that having filed the case was a violation of rules of civil procedure (which in turn would make it a violation of rules of professional conduct).

Citing Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court states that “[i]n presenting a pleading, an attorney certifies that it is not being presented for any improper purpose; that the claims are warranted under the law; and that the factual contentions have evidentiary support.”  

The judge then concludes that  “[b]y filing the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff’s lawyers certified to the Court that, to the best of their knowledge, “the claims, defenses and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying or reversing existing law or for establishing new law.” and that “the factual contentions have evidentiary support[.]”...  I have serious doubts about whether that standard is met here.”

Having concluded this, however, the judge did not impose sanctions.  Instead, at the very end of the opinion he asserts "I reserve jurisdiction to adjudicate issues pertaining to sanctions."

I have not heard whether the judge has made a decision on sanctions, nor whether the conduct of the lawyers, has been or will be referred to disciplinary agencies.  I hope the judge decides to do both.


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

New Mexico will no longer deny licenses to lawyers based on lack of citizenship or based on immigration status

 New Mexico will no longer deny licenses to practice law solely because of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status, including some aspiring law students who arrived in the U.S. as children and don’t have a clear path to citizenship. Go here for the full story.