Wednesday, February 28, 2024

New ABA Formal Opinion on confidential government information

 The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility just released a new Formal Opinion (Number 509).  The title is Disqualification to Prevent the Misuse Use of “Confidential Government Information” and the summary reads as follows:

Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.11(c) protects a person from the misuse of certain information about the person that the government used its authority to acquire. The confidential information protected by Rule 1.11(c) is defined by the Rule as information obtained under government authority about a person which the government is prohibited from disclosing to the public or has a legal privilege not to disclose and is not otherwise available to the public. The Rule provides that a lawyer who acquired the information while serving as a government officer or employee is disqualified from representing a “private client” whose interests are adverse to prevent the confidential government information from being used to the material disadvantage of that person. The Rule applies regardless of whether the lawyer seeking to represent the private client has left government employ or office or maintains a private law practice (e.g., a part-time practice) while still in government employ or office. The Rule applies to a lawyer representing a “private client,” meaning a client whom the lawyer represents in private practice, regardless of whether the client is a public entity or private individual or entity. 

 For now you can access (and download) the opinion here.  After some time, it will be archived and available to members only, so go get it now.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

ABA Working Group asks for comments on possible amendments to allow more cross-border practice

 A couple of days ago I posted that I think a lawyer in good standing in a state should be allowed to practice law in any other jurisdiction.  And just a few hours after I posted that comment, I heard that a working group of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility has requested public comments on an Issue Paper on possible amendments to the model rules which would recognize permissible cross-border practice.

You can read the notice asking for public comments here.  You can read the Issue Paper here.  You can read more about the issue here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Should A License To Practice Law Be More Like A Driver's License?

 Should A License To Practice Law Be More Like A Driver's License?  In a word, YES!  I do think so.  I think that once admitted in one state lawyers should be free to practice in any other state - as long as they are in good standing and comply with the state rules of professional conduct, of course.  I understand that there are lots of state variances when it comes to local rules and procedure but all lawyers are trained in how to do research and figure out the law of any jurisdiction.  

I am mentioning this today because I just saw this post in Above the Law:

"How do you only practice law within your state boundaries when we’re in a global economy and a global world? It’s kind of a preposterous concept, right? [The Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers]’s point is, ‘Do I stop knowing how to drive when I drive outside of Maryland? And as soon as I get to the border in Virginia, I’ve forgotten how to drive?’ It doesn’t make sense."

This is a quote by Charity Anastasio, in comments given during an ABA Techshow 2024 panel titled, “One Bar License, Will Travel—Are Changes in Multi-Jurisdictional Rules on the Way?” Anastasio, who also is the chair of the ABA Law Practice Division’s Professional Development Board, went on to encourage lawyers to “[s]ay it loud, say it proud. We should be able to practice anywhere we can drive.”

US Supreme Court rejects appeal from Trump-affiliated attorneys in Michigan sanctions case

 Not surprisingly, the US Supreme Court has denied review of the sanctions imposed on Trump attorneys in Michigan.  Jurist has the story here.  

For all my blog posts related to Trump lawyers go here.

UPDATE 2-21-2024: MSNBC has the story here.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Yet another instance of ChatGPT hallucinating cases -- UPDATED

February 18, 2024

As reported in Courthouse News:  An appeals court in Missouri lambasted a pro se litigant for submitting multiple “fictitious cases” conjured up by the A.I. chat bot ChatGPT, which offered citations “that have potentially real case names — presumably the result of algorithmic serendipity,” that pointed to either non-existent rulings or to irrelevant ones. The litigant must pay $10,000 to opposing counsel for wasting their time with the “frivolous appeal.”  The court's ruling is here.  For other instances of similar conduct in Courthouse News go here and here.

UPDATE 2-20-2024:

Legal Ethics Lawyer has more on the story here.

The Marshall Project report on the practice of charging indigent defendants to pay for fees related to representation by state appointed counsel

 I have blogged before about the unfortunate reality that even 60 years after Gigeon v. Wainwright, there are still deficiencies in the process to get access to representation for people who can't afford it. See here, for example, and the section on right to counsel for lots more on the subject.

Today I am writing, unfortunately, to point out a new article in The Marshall Project on how many defendants are getting charged fees to pay for their "free" appointed counsel.  

According to the report, the reality is that legal representation by appointed counsel is rarely free. The Supreme Court has found the Constitution guarantees the right to counsel but allows states, in most cases, to try to recoup the costs and that more than 40 do so, according to a 2022 report by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.  

The report focuses on the practice in Iowa, which it says takes these efforts to the extreme.  According to their investigation, not only does Iowa impose some of the highest fees in the nation — affecting tens of thousands of people each year — it also charges poor people for legal aid even if they are acquitted or the cases against them are dropped.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Illinois Supreme Court Amends Rule to Add ‘Sexual Harassment Prevention’ to CLE Topic Areas

Two weeks ago, the Illinois Supreme Court amended a Supreme Court Rule to add “sexual harassment prevention” to the enumerated topic areas for which lawyers may receive professional responsibility CLE (PR CLE) hours.  The amended Rule 794(d)(1) now reads as follows:

Each attorney subject to these Rules shall complete a minimum of six of the total CLE hours for each two-year reporting period in the area of professionalism, civility, legal ethics, sexual harassment prevention, diversity and inclusion, or mental health and substance abuse.

2Civility has more details and commentary here.  LexBlog has the story here

How not to practice law: falsify evidence

 Here is another "how not to practice law" story.  The lessons from these stories always seem so obvious; yet here we are.  In this one, the hearing board found that the lawyer falsified some documents.  He was suspended for six months for violating Rule 8.4(c) regarding dishonesty.  The Legal Profession blog has the story here.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Will AI make the practice of law more accessible? Not everyone agrees

Saying that AI will affect the practice of law is old news.  It already has.  The question now is whether it will affect the practice of law for the better.  And the answer to that will depend on many factors including what you consider to be "better."  With that in mind, take a look at this comment titled "AI can make law better and more accessible; it won't."  

Sunday, February 11, 2024

How not to practice law: Show up drunk

 This is not the first time we have seen this example of "how not to practice law," but there are two interesting questions.  In this particular instance, discussed in the Legal Profession Blog, the lawyer was charged with "attempting" to violate rule 1.1 on competence.  So my first question is:  why charge with attempt to violate a rule?  Can't we argue that appearing drunk before the court in and of itself constitutes incompetence?  

The second question is common to many cases: what should be the proper sanction?  Is it a mitigating factor if the lawyer has a health problem, mental health problem or issues with alcohol?  Is it an aggravating factor?  In this case, the lawyer also had a history of disciplinary sanctions; yet, the sanction was reduced from 90 days to 30 days.  

Saturday, February 3, 2024

How to reply to negative online reviews

 The issue of how to reply to negative online reviews is not new.  If you go to the "internet" section of this blog and scroll down you will find a number of stories on it.  The most recent one is from October of last year on an Arizona Ethics Opinion that concludes lawyers can disclose confidential information when replying to negative online reviews.

Today I am writing to link to a recent post over at LexBlog that again provides basic tips on the subject.  Here it is.