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On Second Thought, Please Don’t Do That

IN RE GLEASON, Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 2012 – Google Scholar.

A bankruptcy lawyer was unhappy with a ruling.  What he did next netted him a 60 day suspension from practicing before the bankruptcy court.

The lawyer wrote a letter to the judge and included a bottle of wine with the letter.  The result was a legal ethics mess and a suspension.

The Eleventh Circuit explains:

“In the present case, the bankruptcy court found that Gleason’s written submissions to the court and sending a judge a bottle of wine with an offer to resolve their differences privately amounted to “sanctionable professional misconduct.” In ordering sanctions, the court exercised its inherent authority to oversee an attorney practicing before it. Proper procedures for challenging rulings that an attorney believes are wrong do not include filing an inappropriate response to a show cause order and then compounding that problem by contacting the judge ex parte. If Gleason believed that the rulings in the underlying bankruptcy case were based on errors of fact or law, his proper procedure was an appeal. Under the circumstances of this case, the bankruptcy court did not violate Gleason’s First Amendment rights by sanctioning him.”

The appeal was probably a bad idea as it drew more attention to this error in judgment.  The court also rejects the First Amendment challenge.  Someday, there will be an appropriate case for an attorney to raise a First Amendment issue in response to a disciplinary claim.  This was not the right case for that defense.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.


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