Attorney Misconduct

There must be no more of this childish abuse…. No more or there will be sanctions. In more than 29 years as a judge, I have never encountered such bickering, quarrelsome lawyers. You are wasting my time and your clients’ money.

– Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, sitting by designation as a district judge (N.D. Ill.), ruling on motions in limine in Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Lear Corp. (PDF).

(The context of this quotation, which contains additional benchslappery, appears below.)

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Greco is a menace to his clients and a scofflaw with respect to appellate procedure. The district court may wish to consider whether he should remain a member of its bar. Would-be clients should consider how Greco has treated [his clients] Lee, Washington, and Moore.

– Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit, benchslapping attorney Michael J. Greco in Lee v. Cook County.

(Additional gems from the opinion — this is just the tip of the iceberg — appear after the jump.)

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(Or: Mess with the Easterbrook, you get the horns.)

Here’s some good news for lawyers who enjoy blogging or instant-messenger services like Gchat. It’s right in the headline of this here National Law Journal story: Smiley face, snark, don’t render law grad unfit to practice.

Many of us get snarky in our personal writing, and many of us employ emoticons in email messages or Gchat exchanges. As litigators well know, sometimes a cold transcript doesn’t adequately convey tone. For this reason, I’ve even seen federal judges use winking smiley-face emoticons in email messages.

But you shouldn’t use smiley faces in documents you file with the court — even the super-icky courts that hear traffic appeals (yes, they exist). This is a lesson that Marilyn Ringstaff, a 2006 graduate of John Marshall Law School, learned the hard way….

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Kenneth Denti

The accusations against disbarred New Jersey lawyer Kenneth Denti — who allegedly falsified time sheets, slept with a client he was representing in her divorce, and got reimbursed by his firm for dinner dates with women he met on the internet — have been covered extensively throughout the legal blogosphere. We previously linked to a post on the Legal Profession Blog about Denti, and his story was also written up in the ABA Journal and the WSJ Law Blog.

But the 94-page decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Review Board contains some juicy tidbits — about money, sex, and other good stuff — that haven’t been mentioned in prior coverage.

So let’s take a closer look….

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The problem of Hoosier lawyers misbehaving is reaching epic proportions. We’ve already told you about Olubunmi Okanlami, the Indiana law grad who allegedly suspected her boyfriend of cheating, attacked him as well as correctional officers, and wore two bras to prison so she could hide a weapon in between.

We’ve already told you about Kirmille Welbon, a deputy prosecutor in Indiana who allegedly attacked the wife of a man she was sleeping with (more on her later). Both of these incidents came to light within the last 30 days.

And now we have another name to add: Daniel C. McCarthy. This guy just got suspended from Indiana Bar for 30 days (without automatic reinstatement) because he can’t even keep it together long enough to write an email…

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com.

Dear ATL,

I am an assistant clerk at a state court.  I graduated in May 2010 and worked hard to find a decent job after taking the July bar.  I have noticed over my past few months that a co-worker, also a 2010 law school graduate, has told at least a few pro se parties and attorneys in the court that he is a lawyer.  This would be fine except for the fact that he has not taken the bar in any state.  It particularly annoys me because I am a graduate of a top tier school in the same state as his third tier school and I have taken and passed the bar in two states while he seems to have spent the summer doing nothing.  I only inform attorneys and parties that I am a licensed attorney when specifically asked because the court is suppose to stay neutral and we are not allowed to give legal advice.  I recently tired to point out to him that he is not a licensed attorney and should not tell or imply to people that he is.  He made some BS distinction between a lawyer and an attorney that made it ok for him to say he’s a lawyer.  Need less to say I’m didn’t buy it.  I cannot believe that the parties contacting our office with questions would understand the difference between his definition of lawyer and attorney….

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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?

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Email insults lead to sanctions for two Florida attorneys.

This has not been a great day for lawyers in Indiana. Another Hoosier lawyer, this time at Barnes & Thornburg, just received a public reprimand for patronizing a prostitute (we’re only doing our part to aid in the shaming).

From the National Law Journal (via the ABA Journal):

The Indiana Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded a Barnes & Thornburg attorney for patronizing a prostitute in February.

Hiroaki Nishikawara, of counsel in the law firm’s Indianapolis office, received the reprimand after the court approved an agreement between him and the state’s attorney disciplinary commission. Nishikawara entered into a plea agreement for committing a class A misdemeanor. The agreement required him to perform six hours of community service and attend an impact panel proceeding. The court noted that he had completed the requirements and had no prior criminal history.

Nishikawara declined to comment about the reprimand.

OK, lawyers I get it. You work ridiculously long hours and it’s really hard to meet women at 3 a.m. when you’re ambling out of work. You’ve tried your sweet charm on your secretary and failed.

But the one thing working 89 hours a day has provided you with is money. So hey, at least you can use that.

Right?

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We’ve been keeping an eye on Andrew Shirvell, the Michigan attorney who has been conducting a personal crusade against Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan student body president who happens to be gay. At the beginning of this month, we learned that Shirvell was taking a leave of absence from his day job in the Michigan Attorney General’s office. We also know that Armstrong has sought a restraining order against Shirvell.

Today, we’ve received word that Armstrong is requesting that Shirvell be brought before the bar on ethics charges. Finally. There’s got to be some kind of ethical rule that prohibits lawyers from gay bashing college kids, right?

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When we included Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller in our gallery of most disgraceful Yale Law School graduates, we admitted that his scandals were trivial in comparison to some other people on the list.

But now maybe Miller will be a worthy contender. Newly released documents contain an email where Miller admits to lying about some of his actions while working as a borough attorney in Fairbanks, Alaska.

I have no idea how the Tea Party will spin this into a positive, but for Democrats and regular Republicans, their problem with Miller won’t be the offense, it’ll be with the cover-up. ‘Twas always thus…

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