Take the File? Take the Kids? Drop the Case? Don’t

Taking the Boss’s File Is Theft – Twice, in Florida

Two associates leave their employment with the firm’s client files, and the clients. Boss sues and gets judgment for Civil Theft of property that did not belong to the associates. Damages were tripled for a big verdict.

Then it gets even more interesting when the Florida Disc. Comm. finds out and after its hearing, suspends the lawyers for short periods. The cases are discussed in the Bloomberg-BNA article here.

*****

Nobody Knows Why She Took the Kids

Morgan County IN lawyer Cecilia Hemphill was talking to a potential client about a visitation issue he had. Hemphill appears to have decided that an 8-year-old girl must have previously lied in a CHINS matter, and the lawyer needed to find out more. Incredibly she went to the children’s school, bullied the staff into letting her take the potential client’s two kids and keeping them for several hours. Mom was notified of the situation and understandably terrified. Hemphill’s phone had died so the Sheriff could not talk to her. Finally at 8:45 (almost 6 hours after picking up the kids) she took the kids to Mom’s.

The Supreme Court found she lacked insight in her continued denial that she did anything wrong, so it suspended her for six months without automatic reinstatement. Half a year out of the profession, then she may petition to return if she can prove she is not a risk to the public. Hemphill Opinion

My question is why, since the events took place in December 2008, it was August 1, 2012 before the case concluded?

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Dropping a case has consequences.

Client got sentenced to 100 years in 1989, but wanted to appeal. Blair Brown of Adams County IN got the appointment timely. Brown filed a defective appeal in 1990, which got dismissed. He forgot to tell the client. In 1993 he tried to appeal again, but to no avail. And again with no notice to the client. Finally in 2007 the client asked the court for a new lawyer. 20 years after convicted he got his appeal heard, and the conviction was affirmed. Client is still in jail.

What to do? No real harm done, convict’s case was apparently solid, as reviewed 19 years after the conviction. Lawyer cooperated, was remorseful, and has no prior problems. But the client was ignored, in violation of the Rules, 1.3, 1.4(a) and (b). Justice delayed is justice denied?

Lawyers must act with diligence and keep a client reasonably informed of the status of a matter, explaining issues so a client may make informed decisions. The court gave Brown a 30 day suspension with automatic reinstatement. Seems a fair outcome, see the Brown Opinion.

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