Before Me – means just that; Get a Retainer; Price of an Insult

Just because you did, don’t.
It hurts to report on lawyer-friends, and yet they too provide lessons for us to learn.  Larry Beeson is a good lawyer from a neighboring county. We have tried a few cases against each other over the nearly 35 years we have been here.  Larry just got a public reprimand, and included was a strong warning from the Chief Justice that the act should have resulted in a suspension.

After seeing this, I called Larry and we discussed the ruling.  The case was an older couple, blended family, and a transfer of the Power of Attorney from the elderly wife to wife’s children.  Husband’s children later objected to everything and among the things in the objection was the handling of the POA.  Husband signed it, wife returned it to the drafting lawyer who added his notary.  He had known the couple for more than 20 years, was familiar with the signature, but did not see it signed, and did not return to have the signer acknowledge before him that the signature was his.

Later there were problems between the various family members, a disciplinary complaint filed, and this issue stood out.  Beeson admitted the violation early. The 2007 incident resulted in the 2013 ruling.

A lively discussion was had on the Indiana State Bar discussion list, with a few confessions from lawyers admitting doing the same things, but most notably, a defense of the Supreme Court’s ruling was in a comment by Indianapolis lawyer Jon Pactor reminding the profession that the legal system depends on honest documents, and as officers of the court, it is critical that no document breaks down at the hands of a lawyer.

Don’t notarize documents when you don’t see the signer sign, and as a lawyer, don’t count on the warning from the CJ remaining the minority view in your case. And if you did it before, or had staff do it before, stop!

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Get a Retainer or stay quiet

Harry Tun was talking to a witness in a murder case he was defending when the witness asked if she could invoke the 5th Amendment to avoid testifying.  Rather than say “you need to talk to a lawyer of your choosing about that.”  Tun answered that she could not invoke the 5th Amendment. Someone else in the room (M.B.) also told the witness the same information. M.B. was later charged with obstruction of justice.

Tun should not have offered legal advice to a non-client.  There was a conflict of interest between his client’s position and the witness’s, and the advice was a concern for the panel.  He got a public admonition from the District of Columbia Bar.

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Deposition Fights – Suspension?

Lawyers should be the professionals in the room when a deposition is going on. Cliff Van Syoc forgot that, and ended up calling the opposing lawyer names such as “stupid” and “bush-league.” (Apparently DC does not allow Joe Jamail deposition tactics from Texas, as shown here) When he told his deposition witness clients to leave the room, the inquiring lawyer said that he would call the judge to supervise the deposition. Van Syoc then said that the “presiding judge is corrupt,” and told an employee to call 911 to have the New Jersey police evict the opposing lawyer.

Van Syoc did give an apology, but the court did not give him much credit since he continued to criticize the judge in his apology. The court reporter testified at the disciplinary hearing, not to Van Syoc’s advantage.

New Jersey discipline is heard by a board that makes recommendations to the Court. The DRB split on the recommendation: four for a six month suspension, one for a three-month suspension, and two for a censure.  The Court will determine the final sentence.

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Matters of Principle – or dumb stuff?

Some less serious stuff that still impact our profession or our clients.

No One Doubts a Person’s Right Not to Pledge Allegiance. but…

Dan Ashta is a Chicago area lawyer, and Commissioner of the Morton Grove Parks Department, an elected position.  Tradition is that Park Department meetings start with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Ashta thinks that is inappropriate, and refuses to stand for the Pledge.  So he removed the Pledge from the Agenda.

The local Post of the American Legion wants the pledge back on the agenda, and is withholding funding for the Parks Department until it returns.  The loss of funding may jeopardize the annual fireworks, Halloween and Easter events in the park.

Principle or Dumb?

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If you are required to register your license by email, should you get an email account? Or are you just cranky?

South Carolina Supreme Court now requires lawyers to register an email address, as well as a mailing address and telephone number with the court.  Cynthia Collie refuses to provide an email address.  She also goes by the name of Cynthia Holmes. She claims to have been retired for 30 years, but records show she is not yet 65 (as required for retired status in SC) and has filed repeated documents in response to the issue.  She did report an email address: rule.410-retired@yahoo.com – but it did not work (Rule 410 is the rule requiring the email address in SC).

She got an interim suspension for her troubles.  The ABA journal reports that Collie/Holmes is also a practicing physician!

Principle or Dumb?

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Paul Ogden Update

The continuing saga of Paul Ogden fascinates me.  Sort of like a wreck on the side of the road.  We know the car is totaled, but I have not figured out how badly the driver injured himself.

The Indianapolis lawyer and blogger continues to get news, and support across the legal field, including this post from the Professional Responsibility Blog, and the editorial ($$) from the Indianapolis Business Journal titled Root Out Rouge Rogue Attorneys *- and it was not Ogden they were recommending being rooted out.

With the opinion in the recent Dixon case, and the 3-2 vote to uphold the Commission’s agreed discipline in the Noah Holcomb Jr. case, opinion here and previous post here, the Commission’s Board may want to ask whether it is either giving the proper guidance to the staff, or asking the questions of the staff that are needed to protect the public.

Principle or Dumb?

* Of all the edits that a blog requires from time to time, the most painful are the ones found by the brother-in-law.  Thanks Steve.