I knew it would happen
I know this lawyer, and the nice things the hearing officer reported to the Supreme Court about her are true, from my experience. But she got reprimanded. I must admit, the facts are hard to decipher from the recitation of events in the opinion, but it appears that the lawyer took on a big case, apparently too big for a single lawyer to take on in the manner she did. She created a class of 64 plaintiffs who may not have had similar interests (since some had settled their claims before becoming part of the class), and they gave her authority to settle without getting further input from the clients, which is power that a lawyer should not have. The Court says that they insisted on it, and she accepted the authority. During mediation, she had a short period of time to accept or reject an offer that seemed appropriate for all 64 clients. She exercised the authority to settle rather than to leave the offer on the table. (Thanks OC and mediator).
It is not clear who reported the matter, but it does not sound (from the opinion) that any of the clients were upset with the settlement, offended by her actions, or thought any inappropriate action had occurred, but that is not the test under Rule 8.4. Lawyers must let the clients make the decisions to settle, as painful as that can be from time to time (Rule 1.2(a)). Aggregate settlements are tricky creatures, and must be handled with care and with the informed consent of each client (Rule 1.8(g)). When lawyers fail to get informed consent, it usually leads to the failure to explain a matter so the client can make an informed decision (Rule 1.4(b)).
Although the Disciplinary Commission lawyer argued for and sought a suspension from the practice, the public reprimand seems right.
The National Law Journal reported that a Chicago lawyer and blogger got caught up in a legal matter that prompted her to make allegations that the IL probate process is “a sleazy world of probate” and that there is “malpractice and malfeasance by attorneys and the court.” Amazingly someone took offense at that. The lawyer Joanne Denison now faces an ethics complaint.
It seems to stem from the court rejecting an application by Denison to serve as a guardian, after the court found that Denison had notarized the signature of a woman who might have been suffering from dementia at the time of the signature, and that the document favored the woman’s daughter, a client of Denison, over others in the family. They thought that was worthy of disqualification from serving as guardian in this matter. Denison went ballistic, created a blog in the name of the potential ward, and started blasting away at the judges and lawyers alike. She named names and recounted allegations, apparently without due regard to the facts underlying the matters.
The ethics allegation is that the blog contains “comments that are false or made with reckless disregard for the truth.” Oops.
I will take that into consideration as I write and edit this blog, and invite others to do likewise in their own writings. As one reply to the NLJ article mentions, Rule 8.3(a) states: “A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of Rule 8.4(b) or Rule 8.4(c) shall inform the appropriate professional authority.” That is not an invitation to inform via blog.
H/T Patrick Olmstead
Indy Ponzi scheme convict Tim Durham, the subject of a previous post here, was suspended from the practice of law based on his finding of guilt in the $200M fraud case of Fair Finance. Durham was sentenced to 50 years, so unless he was planning a jail-house lawyer routine, this finishes his legal career. The Order is here.
The Indy Star claimed [login required] it was the Disciplinary Commission that suspended him, but we know that the Supreme Court keeps that power to itself. Durham still has a challenge to the suspension, but…
BTW, this is Durham’s second suspension, the first was due to failure to pay his annual registration fee last October. Kirkland & Ellis, one of the biggest of BigLaw firms in Chicago, has decided to provide a pro bono appeal for Durham, according to the Indiana Business Journal. If you cannot pay registration for your license, you probably qualify for indigent services.Good to see the poor getting adequate legal representation to protect their rights. It worked so well for Mike Tyson.
Parenting Time changes
Two lawyers in my office have produced a short video on the changes in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. The changes go into effect on March 1.
You may want to watch, or link to it. Andy Perkins and Rachel Arndt did a nice job, here.
Indy lawyer Stephen Terrell will be interviewing me this coming Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 9:00 pm on his weekly online “radio” show. Steve has been on-line for 3 weeks now, and has had some very interesting interviews. You can listen by tuning your browser to http://www.indianatalks.com/. Steve discusses information of the week, and then conducts his interview for much of the hour.
Don’t know what we will talk about, but Steve and I, while friends for a decade, disagree about most of the important things in life, and this will be my chance to show him the errors of his ways for you all to hear. Plans are to discuss law, politics and religion. Where could we disagree about any of these matters?
I only hope the Hoosiers have put the Gophers away by 9:00.