Wednesday, March 27, 2024

California Judge recommends disbarment for John Eastman

 A California judge has formally recommended that attorney John Eastman be disbarred for his role in Donald Trump's legal effort to remain in power after losing the 2020 presidential election.  You can read the decision and order here.  The judge concluded that 

While attorneys have a duty to advocate zealously for their clients, they must do so within the bounds of ethical and legal constraints. Eastman’s actions transgressed those ethical limits by advocating, participating in and pursuing a strategy to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election that lacked evidentiary or legal support. Vigorous advocacy does not absolve Eastman of his professional responsibilities around honesty and upholding the rule of law. While his actions are mitigated by his many years of discipline-free practice, cooperation, and prior good character, his wrongdoing is substantially aggravated by his multiple offenses, lack of candor and indifference. Given the serious and extensive nature of Eastman’s unethical actions, the most severe available professional sanction is warranted to protect the public and preserve the public confidence in the legal system.

More details and commentary here:

The Legal Profession blog


The Hill

Coutrhouse News Service



Wednesday, March 20, 2024

ABA publishes new Formal Ethics Opinion on conflicts of interest because of duties owed to prospective clients under Model Rule 1.18

 Today the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility published Formal Opinion 510 on whether an attorney should be disqualified from representing a new client against a former prospective client.  Go here to access the full text of the opinion (you can download it too).  Here is the opinion's summary: 

Under Rule 1.18 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer who was consulted about a matter by a prospective client, but not retained, is disqualified from representing another client who is adverse to the prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter if the lawyer received from the prospective client “disqualifying information”—i.e., information that could be significantly harmful to the prospective client in the matter. But, if the lawyer “took reasonable measures to avoid exposure to more disqualifying information than was reasonably necessary to determine whether to represent the prospective client,” and the firm takes specified procedural precautions, then the lawyer’s conflict of interest is not imputed to others in the lawyer’s firm.

This opinion addresses the “reasonable measures” necessary to avoid the imputation of conflicts of interest under Rule 1.18.1 First, information that relates to “whether to represent the prospective client” includes information relating to (1) whether the lawyer may undertake or conduct the representation (e.g., whether a conflict of interest exists, whether the lawyer can conduct the work competently, whether the prospective client seeks assistance in a crime or fraud, and whether the client seeks to pursue a nonfrivolous goal), and (2) whether the engagement is one the lawyer is willing to accept. Second, to avoid imputation, even if information relates to “whether to represent the prospective client,” the information sought must be “reasonably necessary” to make this determination. Third, to avoid exposure to disqualifying information that is not reasonably necessary to determine whether to undertake the representation, the lawyer must limit the information requested from the prospective client and should caution the prospective client at the outset of the initial consultation not to volunteer information pertaining to the matter beyond what the lawyer specifically requests.

You can access all other ABA Ethics Opinions (dating back to 1984) here. The most recent ones are available to everyone, but the older ones are now available only to members.  So if you are not a member, download what you need now before it becomes unavailable.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Free Legal Research Startup Now Offers AI Generated Summaries of All State Supreme and Appellate Opinions

 LawSites is reporting (here) that a new website that provides access to legal research called is focused on using artificial intelligence to provide free and easy access to court opinions and that it recently began to offer access to AI-generated summaries of all available state supreme and appellate court opinions from throughout the United States. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

The story you heard about a lawyer avoiding discipline because the state Supreme Court justices recused themselves is not what they are saying it is...

 The headline in Above the Law reads: "Convicted Lawyer Too Well-Connected To Face Discipline".  Elsewhere, the story was reported as "After most Illinois Supreme Court justices recuse themselves, Ed Burke keeps his law license".   The ABA Journal reported the story as "Convicted alderman keeps law license after recusals prevent state supreme court from acting."  You may have heard or or read something like that somewhere else, but the full story is not what it seems.

These headlines suggest that a convicted lawyer could not be disciplined even though he was convicted of a crime.  But that is not necessarily the case.  What happened is that the Disciplinary Agency asked the Supreme Court of the state for an interim suspension because he was convicted of a crime.  "Interim" means that the suspension would be in effect while the Agency decides the disciplinary case.  Some justices in the Court recused themselves and there were not enough justices left (following the state constitution) to grant the petition.

This does not mean that the lawyer will not be disciplined, or that he will avoid discipline.  The lawyer will avoid a suspension while it is decided whether he will be disciplined, but that is a different thing.  It may very well be that the disciplinary agency decides to impose discipline -- in fact, it is possible the agency will decide to disbar the lawyer.   

Now, what happens after that, I don't know.  If the disciplinary agency disbars the attorney, he then has the right to appeal to the state's supreme court.  If the same justices who recused themselves regarding the interim petition recuse themselves from the appeal, the court can't hear the appeal.  Does that end the case and the decision of the disciplinary agency stands?  That's my guess, but I have not looked into it.

New Training for Lay Legal Advocates in Arizona Aims to Expand Access to Justice Statewide

 LawSites has the full story here.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Two articles on the justice gap and legal tech

 LawSites recently published two articles with commentary about the justice gap and legal tech that are worth reading.

In the first one, LawSites's editor Bob Ambrogi argues that "[t]he justice gap in legal technology is a reflection of the justice gap more generally, and both reflect a capitalist society in which the balance of wealth and resources is wildly out of whack. But more can be done. "  You can read the article here.

In response, Jess Lu and Mark Chandler argue that "Justice tech — legal tech that helps low-income folks with no or some ability to pay, that assists the lawyers who serve those folks, and that makes the courts more efficient and effective — must contend with a higher hurdle than wooing Silicon Valley VCs: the civil justice system itself."  The article is available here.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Are you ready for some pickleball?

If you are a college football fan you know about "naming rights"...  So what used to be the Fiesta Bowl suddenly became the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and the LA Bowl became the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, and so on.  Brands and people pay a lot of money to have their brand or name associated with a big event.  

It is a form of advertising, right?  So, would it be ethical for a law firm to buy naming rights.  It has been done for law schools, of course.  Temple University Law School (where I got my Masters degree) is now the James Beasly Law School, for example.

But have you seen a sports event named after a law firm?

And then there are "official partners" associated with leagues. Different leagues have official partners, and they promote them as such.  Thus, you have "the official car of the NFL" (it's Toyota, in case you did not know), or the "official pizza of the NFL" (as of two years ago it was Little Ceasars, which is embarrassing if you like pizza!)

But one thing the NFL does not have is an official law firm.  

So, why am I babbling about this?  Because, other than naming rights on a law school, I have never seen a law firm have naming rights or an official partnership claim with a sports league or event.  

Until now.  Enter pickleball, the self proclaimed fastest growing sport in the US today and the firm of Lerner & Rowe, which was recently announced as the "official personal injury attorneys" of USA Pickleball:

USA Pickleball, the National Governing Body for pickleball in the U.S., today announced personal injury law firm Lerner & Rowe as its Official Injury Attorney in a year-round partnership that welcomes the firm into America’s fastest-growing sport, with nearly 50 million pickleball players in the United States according to the Association of Pickleball Players in 2023.

Lerner & Rowe will serve as the Presenting Partner of the USA Pickleball Golden Ticket tournament in Mesa, Arizona this April. The firm will have a strong presence throughout the event that is expected to host 1,200 of the best players from Arizona and surrounding areas competing for their spot at Nationals. Additionally, Lerner & Rowe will continue supporting USA Pickleball’s mission in the community through community clinics, introducing underserved children to the game of pickleball and providing them with equipment to continue playing upon completion of the program.

Here is the full announcement in USA Pickleball's website.

Saturday, March 2, 2024