Posts Tagged ‘RPC 1.7’

Legal Malpractice Arising Out of Political Scandal

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

The Philadelphia Inquirer has published an update on the Bowman v. K & L Gates legal malpractice action.  The legal malpractice action arose out of representation of Elmer “Al” Bowman by K&L Gates and Buchanan Ingersoll after Mr. Bowman was accused in the corruption scandal that brought down former State House Speaker John M. Perzel and State Representative Brett Feese.  Mr. Bowman was accused of working on tax-payer time to set up a program called Candidate Connect which was a campaign tool for Pennsylvania Republicans (”ComputerGate“).

The legal malpractice claim arose out of Mr. Bowman’s alleged desire to cooperate with authorities, and his counsel allegedly preventing him from doing so.  The malpractice action suggested a serious conflict of interest because Mr. Bowman did not know that K&L Gates was also representing Mr. Feese and Mr. Preski among others.  The Inquirer article notes that prosecutors’ statements during Mr. Bowman’s trial suggest these allegations had merit.  K&L Gates and Buchanan Ingersoll filed preliminary objections to the malpractice action on the basis, inter alia, that Mr. Bowman had not been exonerated, and the Bailey v. Tucker decision prevents legal malpractice claims from criminal defendants unless they establish they have pursued post-trial remedies and obtained relief which was dependent upon attorney error.  The Court of Common Pleas agreed, and sustained the preliminary objections.  Mr. Bowman’s counsel appealed, and the matter was settled on November 9.

In terms of legal malpractice avoidance, this case is a reminder, among other things, of the importance of examining actual and/or potential conflicts of interest.  Conflicts of interest are a major cause of legal malpractice and disciplinary actions.  Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7-1.10  are good guides for identifying and avoiding conflict.

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

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New Jersey Supreme Court Censures Attorney for “Grossly Deficient” Records

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

After the recommendations of four months suspension from the New Jersey Disciplinary Review board and even disbarment from the state Office of Attorney Ethics, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided to simply censure New Jersey lawyer Kevin Wigenton for unethical conduct.  Mr. Wigenton was accused of negligently misappropriating trust and escrow funds.  In 2002, a random audit was conducted by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE).  Following a second audit, the OAE brought charges against Mr. Wigenton of multiple instances of knowing misappropriation of client trust and escrow funds and with acting with a conflict of interest in a real estate transaction.

After review of the record, the court found that Mr. Wigenton did not knowingly misappropriate the funds, but did so negligently due to “terrible” record keeping practices.  In its order, the court noted that though Mr. Wigenton had “grossly deficient” accounting methods and had violated professional conduct rules of safekeeping property and conflicts of interest, no client or third party was harmed.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire and Shilpa Kadoo

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