Posts Tagged ‘attorney ethical obligations’

Because “Bubba the Love Sponge Clem” Isn’t Strange Enough

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Your standard defamation case against a morning disc jockey case recently took a turn for the very weird.  Todd “MJ” Schnitt a Tampa area D.J., had accused Bubba the Love Sponge Clem of defamation, a case which ended last week in a defense verdict for Bubba after a three week trial.

However, the judge still has to decide the motion of MJ’s attorneys for a mistrial.  The motion for a mistrial arose because, in the middle of trial, MJ’s counsel, Charles Phillip Campbell, Jr., was arrested for DUI.  The plot thickened when it was learned that Mr. Campbell was arrested while driving a vehicle belonging to Melissa Personius, a paralegal for the law firm of Adams & Diaco, the firm representing Bubba.  The Tampa police were apparently tipped off by someone at Adams & Diaco that someone who was “known to drink and drive” would be leaving, Malio’s, the restaurant where Mr. Campbell and Ms. Personius were drinking.  When Mr. Campbell was arrested, his trial bag remained in Ms. Personius’s car, and was then taken by an attorney from Adams & Diaco for several hours.  Ms. Personius refused to answer a number of question about whether she was instructed to set Mr. Campbell up on fifth amendment grounds.

Obviously, if Mr. Campbell was set up by Adams & Diaco, there are a number of serious ethical questions.  Among other Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 8.4, integrity of the profession, is certainly implicated.  The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into the attorneys’ conduct.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire (H.T. ABA Journal)

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Ethical Issues Regarding Letters of Protection

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Here is an interesting opinion piece from the Hanford, California Sentinel regarding the enforcement of letters of protection (promises by attorneys to pay clients’ doctors’ bills out of lawsuit recovery, a type of medical lien).  Apparently, the California Bar used to investigate cases where attorneys allegedly disregarded letters of protection, but are now taking a hands of approach.  Letters of protection in general involve a number of interesting ethical and practical issues  for attorneys,  medical providers, and clients.  The most important ethical rule for both attorneys and medical providers is not to put their own financial interests in front of the clients.  The value of the letter of protection for the client should always be considered before signing a letter of protection.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire  (H.T. B.C.B.)

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Dewey Dismal System- Implosion

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

One of the largest law firms in New York City appears to be imploding.  Dewey & LeBoeuf partners have been encouraged to look for work elsewhere, and law students have been told that they will not have summer associate jobs they had previously been offered.  The end of a large firm is not unique, large firms fail and close with regularity.  However, this particular failure may be the largest in history.

For purposes of our blog, the end of a law firm is not merely the subject of morbid fascination, but a point of discussion of potential pitfalls.  As the 2009 failure of Wolf Block showed, failed law firms are subject to lawsuits from disgruntled former partners, as well as former clients and vendors.  These disputes can take years to sort out.

The legal malpractice and ethical implications of a firm break-up are myriad.  They include continuing duties to clients, potential conflicts as partners leave for new firms, and confidentiality and safe-keeping problems.  Issues can arise out of client file and property transfer; statements to clients about the lawyers’ services; and neglect or abandonment of client files (many of these same issues arise anytime a lawyer leaves a firm).  In order to avoid professional liability, ethics problems, and/or legal malpractice actions, a law firm break-up requires as much careful planning on all levels as a law firm start-up.  Unfortunately, careful planning of break-ups does not always happen.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire

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Interesting Effects of a Controversial Law

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

While not relevant to most attorneys in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the recent controversial immigration law in Alabama raises a very interesting question regarding the intersection of attorney ethics and legal responsibility.  It is not clear whether it is an unintended consequence, but Sections 5 and 6 of the law make it a crime for an “officer of the court” to adopt a practice “that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws by limiting communication” with immigration officials.  This wording has led attorneys to question whether they can be subject to criminal or civil action for protecting client confidences regarding immigration status.  The law authorizes any U.S. citizen to file a civil claim against an officer of the court who violates the section, and creates a penalty of between $1,000 and $5,000 for each day of violation.

The U.S. Department of Justice has warned Alabama about its implementation of the law, and several key provisions of the law have already been blocked.  However, most of the law has been upheld by the courts so far.  Until the law is overturned, Alabama lawyers are in the uncomfortable position of weighing their ethical obligations to their clients against the potential for criminal or civil action against them.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire (HT to BCB)

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