Attorney Misconduct, Legal Ethics, Litigators, Rudeness

Lawyers of the Day: ‘Scum Sucking Loser’ and ‘Retard’
Email insults lead to sanctions for two Florida attorneys.

Sometimes lawyers are rude — really, really rude. And when they get extremely rude in emails with one another, sometimes the result is discipline from the bar. So, counselors, please be polite; treat each other with courtesy and respect.

(And treat bartenders with respect too. You never know when one of them might bring your rudeness to the attention of Above the Law.)

The importance of common courtesy is a lesson that Florida lawyers Nicholas Mooney and Kurt Mitchell learned the hard way. After they called each other some nasty names over email, charming monikers like “scum sucking loser” and “retard,” they both wound up getting disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court.

Let’s take a closer look at their crazy correspondence, shall we?

The story was first covered by the St. Petersburg Times (via How Appealing). Some quick context: Kurt Mitchell, a 36-year-old plaintiff’s lawyer from Palmetto, was representing a plaintiff who was suing Volkswagen of America, represented by Nick Mooney, a 50-year-old defense lawyer from Tampa.

The insults exchanged by Mooney and Mitchell were nicely summarized by the ABA Journal:

• From Mooney to Mitchell, written after an accusation that he couldn’t handle the pressures of litigation: Mooney said he was handling more than 200 cases, “many of which were more important/significant than these little Mag[nuson] Moss [warranty] claims that are handled by bottom feeding/scum sucking/loser lawyers like yourself.”

• From Mitchell: Mooney displays symptoms of a disability marked by “closely spaced eyes, dull blank stare, bulbous head, lying.”

• From Mooney: Mitchell should look in the mirror to see signs of a disability. “Then check your children (if they are even yours. … Better check the garbage man that comes by your trailer to make sure they don’t look like him).”

• From Mitchell, after learning Mooney’s son suffers from a birth defect: “While I am sorry to hear about your disabled child, that sort of thing is to be expected when a retard reproduces.”

The ABA Journal left out the rest of the quote from Mitchell to Mooney, referencing Mooney’s disabled son: “Do not hate me, hate your genetics. However, I would look at the bright side, at least you definitely know the kid is yours.”

These are just excerpts. You can read more in the Florida bar complaints against Mitchell and against Mooney, which include lengthy email chains as exhibits.

For example, here’s another email from Mooney to Mitchell (click to enlarge):

And, in the interest of being fair and balanced, here’s another email from Mitchell to Mooney (again, click to enlarge):

The email exchanges are just the tip of the iceberg. Additional shenanigans allegedly took place at depositions and through written motions filed with the court.

So who are these guys, and what punishments did they receive? From the ABA Journal:

Nicholas Mooney of Tampa, a lawyer representing Volkswagen of America, received a public reprimand and must take a class on professionalism…. He is identified as a former partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson and a lawyer for Bromagen & Rathet on the law firm’s website. Kurt Mitchell of Palmetto, an accident lawyer identified as “an experienced litigator and biker” on his website, was suspended for 10 days and must attend an anger management class, the story says.

Their website bios are interesting reads. Nicholas Mooney’s bio notes that Mooney, a former prosecutor with over 200 jury trials under his belt, “has been rated by Martindale-Hubbell for ethics and legal ability.” We wonder how high that ethics rating was.

Meanwhile, Kurt Mitchell’s firm website, which touts his dedication to “seeking economic justice for injured bikers,” is hosted at www.HogLaw.com. Presumably that’s a reference to Mitchell’s focus on motorcycle injury cases, not the swine-like behavior for which he was sanctioned.

Based on the bar complaints, both Mooney and Mitchell sound dreadful — but who was worse? Spin through the links collected below, including news coverage and the actual complaints filed against each, and then vote in our poll and argue it out in the comments:

Whose conduct was more egregious, Kurt Mitchell's or Nicholas Mooney's?

View Results

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Court punishes bay area lawyers who called each other ‘hack’ and ‘loser’ — and worse
[St. Petersburg Times via How Appealing]
Lawyers Sanctioned for E-Mail Insults, Including ‘Scum Sucking Loser’ Comment [ABA Journal]
Florida Bar v. Nicholas Francis Mooney [Supreme Court of Florida via St. Petersburg Times]
Florida Bar v. Kurt D. Mitchell [Supreme Court of Florida via St. Petersburg Times]

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