Legal Ethics

We’ve seen some heated deposition transcripts in the past, but we didn’t know that simply scheduling a deposition could get so nasty. Clearly, we’ve never practiced in Texas, a place where Biglaw lawyers occasionally have to contend with “pansy” opposing counsel.

And, you know, have sanctions sought against them for their allegedly inappropriate email correspondence.

We’ve got a fun one today, folks. A partner at Cozen O’Connor in Dallas sent a string of allegedly abusive emails to opposing counsel when the lawyers couldn’t agree on a schedule for depositions. And we know all this because the emails are part of the record in the motion to sanction the Cozen partner.

UPDATE (5/17/2012, 11 AM): We’ve added a link to the full motion for sanctions, after the jump.

Actually, make that former partner. Keep reading, to find out what may have led to the partner’s departure from the firm….

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I work in a highly competitive sales market. Underhanded deeds, though never perpetrated by my clients, are de rigeur in this field. There seems to be an ethical handbook for sales folks that has a theme of “ethics smethics –- close the deal at all costs.”

At quarter-end, or worse, year-end, this mantra can infect an attorney’s most rigid values. It is at these times when we must be on guard against the pressure to close. The pot at the end of the rainbow will look rather less shiny when tarnished by an ethics violation. None of this is news to most in-house folks.

With an economy on a slow crawl back to health, and internal pressures from all sides to cut costs and maximize revenue, shenanigans from sales people are rife in war story lore. But what of bad behavior by customers? I can tell you that after my years in-house, when I thought I’d already seen it all in private practice, I was quite wrong….

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Respondent brandishes his opinion as a battering ram, intentionally offending people. This Panel does not believe these are “slips of the tongue” or inadvertant. Respondent is intentional in his conduct and bull whips people by his words with a zeal. While in private life he may be as rude, offensive and demeaning as he chooses, in his professional life he may not hide behind his First Amendment rights to ignore his sworn responsibilities.

– Presiding Disciplinary Judge William J. O’Neil of the Arizona Supreme Court, in a recent ethics opinion concluding that attorney Meyer L. Ziman should be suspended for one year’s time, with reinstatement on probation.

(So what did Ziman allegedly do that was bad enough to warrant his suspension? Let’s find out, after the jump.)

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Lawyers: the same as trees?

As the superior court aptly observed, “The fact that the meeting occurs in a public place does not destroy the privilege, if no one hears the conversation.”

– Associate Justice Robert J. Lynn of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, in an opinion upholding the existence of the attorney-client privilege, despite the fact that an attorney discussed confidential information with his clients at a meeting that was open to the public.

Will Rielle Hunter take the stand?

* Dewey need to declare bankruptcy yet? While the delusional firm has “no plans to file bankruptcy,” partner defectors and retirees are being advised to contact personal bankruptcy lawyers ASAP. [New York Times]

* When Dewey become a part of the great unwashed? When you’re being sued for $300K in unpaid janitors’ bills. But that claim’s going to be nickel and dimed, just like the firm’s partner guarantees. [Businessweek]

* Maybe Greenberg Traurig ditched its merger talks with D&L because they had problems of their own. The firm apparently laid off staff to achieve a 4-to-1 attorney-secretary ratio. [Daily Business Review (sub. req.)]

* The judge presiding over the John Edwards campaign finance trial denied a motion to dismiss the charges against the former presidential candidate. Like all the rest of us, Judge Eagles probably just wants to see if he and his baby mama, Rielle Hunter, will take the stand. [MSNBC]

* In the wake of the Elizabeth Warren controversy, many have wondered what goes into law school hiring decisions. Generally, they look for good teachers, but being 1/32 Native American certainly helps. [ABC News]

* Try to bring up ethics charges on the Wisconsin justice who allegedly choked a bitch in chambers, and you might find your career as Chairman of the state’s Judicial Commission in a stranglehold. [Telegraph Herald]

Female attorneys must be on the same cycle in Illinois, because based on all of the ethics complaints that have come down the pipeline, they’ve been acting a little crazy.

Today’s tale of alleged attorney misconduct comes to us as a result of a former public defender’s behavior in court. It’s nowhere near as juicy as the allegations against Reema Bajaj or Tamara Tanzillo, but it’s certainly a cautionary tale for lawyers everywhere who get a little hot-headed when they’re arguing before the bench.

Before you can say “oh sh*t,” let’s get down to the allegations….

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If you’ve been representing someone in a knock-down, drag-out, decade-long divorce action, with no end in sight, it’s understandable that you’d be a little pissed off. And while some attorneys prefer to write “not so sincere” letters calling opposing counsel “a**holes,” others find more creative ways to channel their anger for the sake of poetic justice.

And while poetry may be the best way to make passive-aggressive complaints about your case, the next time you’re considering writing a four-page, 60-line email riffing on a classic holiday poem, you might want to consider your audience. Some people might not be fans of your rhyme scheme….

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Judging from our traffic stats and the many emails we’ve received about it, the story of the document controversy involving Greenberg Traurig and its former client, TD Bank, has captured the interest of our Floridian readers. So we’ll do one more story about it for now (and then we may keep our powder dry until after the contempt hearing later this month before Judge Marcia Cooke, when there will be bigger news to report).

In our first story, we discussed the allegations made against Greenberg Traurig and one of its former shareholders, Donna Evans. In our second story, we raised some points in defense of ex-partner Evans and her former firm. We believe in providing both sides of a story here at ATL.

Now we’ll share with you a final rebuttal by critics of GT and Evans….

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Last week we covered a controversy down in south Florida involving Greenberg Traurig. The firm was replaced as counsel in a particular case by its client, TD Bank, after a partner at the firm denied the existence of a document that, it turned out, actually does exist. The partner who allegedly made the statement is no longer with the firm, and next month, Judge Marcia Cooke (S.D. Fla.) will hold a hearing to determine whether the bank should be held in contempt of court as a result of this apparent screw-up.

This does not sound good, to be sure. But subsequent developments, as well as a closer examination of the situation, suggest that GT’s culpability may be overstated….

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Federal judges don’t take kindly to misstatements by counsel appearing before them. And when the judge is unhappy, the client is unhappy. And when the client is unhappy, outside counsel gets cashiered. It’s not a pretty process.

Let’s travel down to south Florida, where an allegedly incorrect statement by a partner at Greenberg Traurig has incurred the wrath of a federal judge — apparently resulting in the client replacing the firm, and the firm parting ways with the partner.

It’s a cautionary tale for litigators….

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