Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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Disclaimer: This is a charge and it has not been proven. These are mere allegations by the ARDC.

The case is worth reading because it is relatively rare for the ARDC to allege that a lawyer wrongfully accessed an email account. The underlying case involved a former employee. The lawyer was employed as the CFO of the former employer. According to the allegations, the lawyer used a work email address of the former employee to reset the password on the employee’s personal email account. The lawyer then read the personal emails and used them in the litigation. The allegations of wrongdoing are as follows:

21 t all times alleged in this complaint, there was in full force and effect Chapter 720, Section 5/17-51 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, which provided, in part:

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This case is newsworthy.The 11th Circuit affirmed a contempt finding against a lawyer who allegedly wrongfully procured evidence from the defendant. The Court set forth the facts as follows:

Attorney Sandra Finch represented Elane Armstead in Armstead’s lawsuit against Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Company. In the weeks leading up to trial, Finch, on Armstead’s behalf, filed a motion in limine to exclude or strike the deposition testimony of Allstate’s fact witness Mark Gould. Allstate filed a response in opposition that, among other things, described what happened during Gould’s deposition, which it supported by citing the deposition transcript and Gould’s affidavit. The transcript showed that during the deposition Finch handed Gould page-by-page photographs of a document titled “Steamatic Guide to Restoration Services” (an outdated company document) and that when Gould asked Finch where she had found that document, Finch refused to answer. Gould in his affidavit stated that he “got very upset when it became apparent [that Finch] had obtained the document from my office without my permission.”

The photographs of the Steamatic Guide were not the only photographs Finchshowed Gould during his deposition. At one point she handed Gould a photograph of the inside of his office, but refused to explain where she had gotten the picture. Gould accused Finch of trespassing, at which point Finch responded, “I caution you on defaming me, because if you defame me, I can promise you it will not be good.”

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West Virginia has suspended an attorney for 30 days for failing to file a client’s amended habeas corpus petition on time. This is another case in which disciplinary authorities have prosecuted a negligence case. The attorney was found to have violated Rule 1.3 (failing to act with reasonable diligence) and Rule 1.4(a)(3) (failing to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); and Rule 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

The record indicated that the lawyer was appointed to represent a pro se prisoner and that the lawyer eventually obtained leave of court to file the petition after it was due.

Source: Lawyer Disciplinary Board v. Palmer, W Va: Supreme Court of Appeals 2017 – Google Scholar

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This case (which is merely a complaint now that has not been proven) is a reminder that an attorney can be prosecuted by the ARDC for failing to safeguard client funds when he personally did not convert the funds. In this case, the allegations are that the lawyer’s partner converted funds and that the lawyer failed to prevent it. There are also allegations that suggest that the lawyer had reason to know that his partner might convert funds because he had converted funds in the past. The complaint alleges violations of Rule 1.15 and Rule 5.1(a). I have attached a link to the ARDC’s complaint. Again, the important thing to remember is that you can be prosecuted even if you did not convert funds.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

http://www.iardc.org/17PR0053CM.html

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This is case is worth reading because it involved a law firm that did legal work for a client for a period 12 years, but never billed the client. The firm claimed that it had entered into an oral agreement with the client to defer billing until a parcel of real property was sold. When the property was sold, the lawyers delivered a legal bill for $274,850.64 to the client.

One can speculate that the client, who had not received any bills before that time, was enraged to receive a huge bill after that amount of time. She refused to pay.

The firm sued for (a) breach of contract, and (b) equitable estoppel. The client filed a motion to dismiss the breach of contract claim based on the statute of limitations and the statute of frauds. The motion to dismiss was denied.

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http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=12328

The ARDC has recently filed several elder abuse cases. This is one of those cases. According to the Review Board, the facts were as follows:

Respondent graduated from law school in 1989. He has a solo practice at Milwaukee and Devon in Chicago. He handles mostly residential real estate work and most of his clients are Polish. Respondent’s first language is Polish.

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The ARDC has filed a complaint against Dmitry Feofanov, 2017 PR 00009, for allegedly failing to disclose the death of a client in a lawsuit with a car dealer. Under Illinois law, once the client dies, the attorney-client relationship ceases to exist. The lawyer needs the authorization of the executor or administrator of the estate to proceed.

Obviously, this is a complaint and the allegations have not been proven or heard by trier of fact. The case is worth reading because it illustrates ARDC enforcement priorities.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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This disciplinary proceeding stemmed from allegedly false statements contained in a campaign-issued flyer disseminated while Stephen O. Callaghan, Judge-Elect of the 28th Judicial Circuit was a candidate for Judge of the 28th Judicial Circuit. The West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board recommended that Judge-Elect Callaghan be disciplined for three violations of the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct and one violation of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct. The Supreme Court adopted the Board’s recommended discipline, with modification, and found that it was appropriate to suspend Judge-Elect Callaghan from the judicial bench for a total of two years without pay, along with the recommended fine of $15,000, and reprimand as an attorney, holding (1) there was clear and convincing evidence of improper conduct presented in support of each of the violations found by the Board; and (2) Judge-Elect Callaghan’s constitutional arguments were unavailing.

Source: In re Hon. Stephen O. Judge-Elect Callaghan :: 2017 :: Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Decisions :: West Virginia Case Law :: West Virginia Law :: U.S. Law :: Justia

This is one of an increasing number of cases where a judicial candidate is disciplined for making false statements about an opponent. Here the allegedly false statements worked and the candidate won the election. What triggered the ire of the West Virginia Courts was the particular nature of the statements. The materials juxtaposed statements about President Obama and lost coal jobs with a misleading allegation that the incumbent had attended a legal seminar in Washington D.C. The West Virginia Supreme Court describes the “survey” in this fashion:

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The Illinois Supreme Court has established a new rule that requires attorneys who do not have insurance to undertake an interactive test. The test is designed to make the lawyer more prepared to deal with ethics and risk management issues. The lawyer will earn 4 hours of MCLE credit. Furthermore, the ARDC cannot use the results of the self-assessment in any proceeding.

Source: Illinois Supreme Court adopts ‘proactive management-based regulation’ | Illinois Lawyer Now

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A Chicago attorney known for representing Christian conservative causes has been suspended from practicing in federal court for a year after he admitted making lewd and misogynistic comments to a rival lawyer, including sending an email that twisted her name to spell a vulgar term for a female body part.

Source: Lawyer suspended from federal court for lewd, misogynistic comments – Chicago Tribune

If these allegations are true, and Judge Castillo did find that the allegations were true, this lawyer can expect further discipline from the ARDC. In my opinion, Judge Castillo is correct to recommend that the attorney obtain professional help.