Ethics

Judge Vince Sicari

A municipal judge in South Hackensack, New Jersey receives a mere $13,000/year in compensation. While the privilege of getting that little extra effort when making restaurant reservations under the title “Judge,” is nice, it’s not bring-my-income-up-to-the-poverty-line nice. Serving as a municipal judge is a public service, and the men and women who make this sacrifice are expected to find extra-judicial work to pay the bills.

Most are practicing lawyers. One is a stand-up comedian performing at Caroline’s and warming-up the crowd at the Colbert Report.

And somehow the ethics gatekeepers in New Jersey seem to think, of those two options, that the stand-up comedian is the one undermining the dignity of the bench.

I’ll be here all week, folks.

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This cheese isn’t a good deal.

Today’s story about a law student bound for prison has me thinking about how regular people become criminals. The story of Marc Gersen is the kind of thing books are made of; it’s big and bold and colorful.

But on the smaller scale, people are pushed into unethical decisions all the time, and it rarely comes with the stark choices of, “Should I, or should I NOT, start a meth ring?” People, especially the kind of risk-averse people who end up in law school, don’t make one big decision to “become a criminal.” It’s a bunch of little decisions that incrementally take you from “normal, law-abiding citizen” to “bad actor.”

Today, we got an email from a person who is thinking about making an unethical choice out of desperation for a job. Why don’t you read her dilemma for yourself and tell her what you think she should do….

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There is a woman out there who can literally say, “I got screwed by my attorney, and he charged me for it.”

That’s right, in an amazing cacophony of bad behavior, today we have a story about a lawyer who didn’t just have an inappropriate relationship with his client, he also billed her for the time they spent having illicit relations.

Bet you none of these would-be bros have pulled that off….

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Blind item: which fairly powerful, yet overly fey — and we’re talking Dana Carvey “Gay?? That’s ridiculous!!” fey — and married Biglaw partner with top school credentials, regularly double and triple bills clients?

Blind item: which Biglaw firm, when faced with a lawyer deponent from a small shop who was clearly mentally unstable, chose to do nothing, ignoring its reporting obligations?

I mention the above anecdotes because they are all true, and because they all include reportable ethical breaches. When we were inducted into the Second Department in Brooklyn, and in ethics class, our reporting obligations were hammered into us — yet, nothing is ever done. Why?

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* Unhappy with eleventy billion dollars in damages due to Apple, Samsung will begin its appeals, perhaps even to the Supreme Court (because you know that SCOTUS wants a bite at the proverbial literal patent apple). [Wall Street Journal]

* And speaking of that jury award, jury foreman Velvin Hogan had this to say about it: “We wanted to make sure it was sufficiently high to be painful, but not unreasonable.” Yeah, because a billion dollars in damages isn’t unreasonable at all. [Reuters]

* Do judges with lawyerly license plates avoid traffic infractions instead of getting tickets? The New York Commission on Judicial Conduct is investigating this issue of epic importance. [New York Law Journal]

* If bill collectors are threatening to sue you over your credit-card debts, you better pray that your case lands on Judge Noach Dear’s docket, because in his courtroom, “it’s dismiss, dismiss, dismiss.” [New York Post]

* Hippies can file lawsuits, too: Burning Man starts today, but the event’s organizers claim that its Nevada venue is pursuing a new theme in view of a “drastic increase in fees” — burning money. [All Things Digital]

* Protestors should be allowed to act however they want when carrying prohibited machetes in Republican National Convention event zones. This was the first, and definitely the coolest, RNC arrest made. [ABC News]

* Looks like someone skipped professional responsibility class during bar prep: the Ninth Circuit denied attorney fees to McGuireWoods in light of an “egregious” ethics violation made in the BAR/BRI antitrust settlement. [National Law Journal]

* Apple rested its patent-infringement case against Samsung yesterday, making way for the rival tech company to begin presenting its case. Jurors must be thrilled that the end is in sight, with just 25 more hours of arguments to go. [Bloomberg]

* Remember the mom-and-dad law grads accused of planting a potpourri of drugs on an elementary school volunteer? Their alleged victim is suing. We’ll have more on this hot mess later. [Orange County Register]

* “The facts don’t seem to support a ‘stand your ground’ defense.” That’s what George Zimmerman’s attorney said yesterday, but the defense team is going to try to get the case dismissed on those grounds anyway. [AP]

* When applying to law school, it’s usually helpful to demonstrate in your application that you actually want to go to law school. Gah, people seriously need to be told these things. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* “[T]he plaintiff’s tampon was never forcibly removed by any deputy.” First of all, yuck. Second of all, you know that a crazy lawsuit must have been filed when the cops are making public statements like this. [NBC News]

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]

When we last checked in with the justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, one justice stood accused of allegedly choking a bitch in chambers (no, not the “total bitch” that he had previously threatened to “destroy” — another one). Although the kerfuffle did not result in any criminal charges, it seems that Justice David Prosser isn’t as charismatic as Wayne Brady, because now he’s facing possible ethics sanctions over the two incidents.

What did the outspoken justice have to say about the request for sanctions?

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Taylor Swift

* Snowtober was a treat for some, but a trick for many more. Let us know how your firm is handling this Halloween horror. Email us or send a text to (646) 820-TIPS. [Reuters]

* Will the legal profession continue to be a slave to ethical rules of the past? Only if lawyers can’t profit from it. And if they can, then say hello to an ABA resolution in 2012. [New York Times]

* Pot trafficker: add this one to the list of career alternatives for attorneys that aren’t working out so well. But if you don’t mind giving up your Benz and getting disbarred, then go for it. [Times Union]

* Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best topless trademark lawsuits of all time. One of the best topless trademark lawsuits of all time! [Daily Mail]

* Urine trouble, lady. Here’s some proof that next time things aren’t going your way in court, you should try peeing all over yourself. [New York Post]

Angelina Pivarnick

* The Westboro Baptist Church has announced — on an iPhone — that it will be picketing Steve Jobs’s funeral. And now I have an Alanis Morissette song stuck in my head. [Los Angeles Times]

* Price check on aisle seven. Price check on aisle seven for a divorce train wreck. People over in England need to be prepared for this now that supermarkets can sell legal services. [BBC News]

* Crowell & Moring has been slapped with an ethics complaint for suggesting that Appalachians suffer birth defects because they have family circles instead of family trees. [Am Law Daily]

* Se habla Español? Necesita un trabajo? Greenberg Traurig is expanding its ginormas practice with its 33rd office located in Mexico City. [Sacramento Bee]

* Doctors in Kentucky delivered a decapitated baby, but apparently did “nothing wrong.” [Insert completely inappropriate dead baby joke here.] [Courier-Journal]

* A former Jersey Shore star is suing over an alleged attack at a Hot Topic last year. This is only acceptable if the “dirty little hamster” was there to look for a Halloween costume. [New York Post]

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