In a story that is sadly all too familiar, the Oregon Supreme Court has issued an opinion and public reprimand of Brian Conry, an immigration lawyer who had the temerity to respond to three negative reviews posted online by a former client. In re Conry (OSB 18-104) (SC S067502). Conry represented a client who was seeking a stay of deportation proceedings. At some point the client engaged a new attorney who obtained the relief that the client was seeking. I will quote one of the reviews and responses:
“Horrible experience with [Respondent]. He lost my case. The government has ordered me deported. I fired him. Went to Gonzales Gonzales Gonzales Immigration law firm. They helped me to appeale [sic] my case and we won in about in about 3 month! [sic]. I found out that in my case I was not even deportable. But [Respondent] never told me that. He took over $20,000 in 5 years of fighting this case and lost it. STRONGLY RECOMMEND NOT TO HIRE THIS GUY.!!!”
“Yarik has been convicted of theft as well as burglary in the second degree. Mr. Conry was able to keep Yarik in the United States for approximately five years after assisting in getting him released from the detention center in Tacoma Washington where he was facing deportation.
I did not wish to represent Yarik on appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeal. However, it was my work in delaying his deportation that enabled him to be able to make an appellate argument claiming his burglary in the second degree conviction with an underlying intent to commit theft is not a crime of moral turpitude. This argument has enabled him to remain in the United States at this time. Th law changed in the Ninth Circuit apparently to his benefit over the years while I represented him and kept him from being deported by raising all potential legal issues on his behalf that appeared plausible.
Yarik conflates the dollars paid for legal services with the dollars paid for costs like filing fees or for an investigator and misstates that the costs funds paid for filing fees of for an investigator were paid for attorney fees. The claim that Yarik was not deportable from the very start is a complete mistake of law on his part. The issue of whether burglary in the second degree with an intent to commit theft with an intent to commit theft is a crime of moral turpitude was never heard by the courts. Yarik should be thanking his lucky stars instead of posting. He does not know the law or just how lucky he has been.”
The Court concluded that the lawyer violated Rule 1.6(a) by disclosing “information relating to the representation of a client.” The Court affirmed the finding that the lawyer disclosed information relating to the representation of a client. There was no claim that the lawyer disclosed confidential information.
The Oregon Supreme Court brushed aside the argument that the lawyer has a privilege to defend himself from a negative review. This “defense” has been discussed in law review articles but it has yet to be successful in the published decisions on this issue.
Comment: Sadly I don’t think courts fully understand the issues presented by online reviews. Lawyers can be harmed and are hand-cuffed in responding. My advice remains the same – Don’t respond to a negative review in any substantive fashion. Nothing good will come of it and you may find yourself the subject of an ethics proceeding. Never respond in anger. Anger has a way of distorting judgment and making situations far worse than they otherwise would be.
If you have a question about an online review, feel free to call me and discuss it before you take any action. Better yet, just suck it up and treat the review as a badge of honor.
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.