Monthly Archives: January 2014

Illinois discipline board recommends 90 day suspension for revealing confidential information in court, failing to communicate plea offers, and disrupting the tribunal

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will update my 7/30/13 Ethics Alert blog and will discuss the January 24, 2014 Report and Recommendation by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission upholding a Hearing Board recommendation that a lawyer receive a 90 day suspension for failing to communicate plea offers, disrupting the tribunal, and revealing confidential information on multiple occasions in public court hearings.  The case is In re Theresa Cesar Garza, Commission No. 2012PR00035 (1/24/14).  The Report and Recommendation is attached and is here http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11250.

According to the Report and Recommendation, the lawyer was an assistant public defender with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office.  She failed to communicate plea offers to 3 clients and she revealed inculpatory client confidential information in open court on 3 separate occasions without the clients’ permission, including admissions of her client’s guilt and presence at the crime scene, all of which had been made to her in private conferences and meetings with clients.

In separate incident, the lawyer was appointed on May 18, 2011 to represent a client (Boyd) who had been charged with theft whose trial was scheduled for that day.  The client client’s previous (private) lawyer said that he had not received photo lineups and stated that a video the prosecutor provided did not play. The judge told the client that he would give her a short continuance to obtain another attorney and told her to talk to the lawyer.  The lawyer met with the client and later appeared before the judge.  After a discussion regarding when the prosecutor could produce the requested video, the lawyer said, “If the court wishes for me to go (to trial) today, show me the video, and then I would go today.”  The judge stated that he would pass the case for trial to allow her to view the video.

The client apparently told the lawyer that she needed to leave to pick up a child from school that day and she would then return to the courtroom.  When case was later called for trial, the client was not there.  The lawyer said that the prosecutor was just then showing her the video and that the client had  left to pick up her child. The judge said that the case was set for trial and that he would issue a warrant for the client’s arrest.  The lawyer then said “Oh shit” and, when the judge asked her what she said, she stated “Oh shoot” and said it was her fault that the client was not present. The judge then issued the arrest warrant.

In another incident before the same judge, the lawyer was representing a client (Poole) and the judge set bond at $1,000.00.  The lawyer asked the judge to reconsider the bond amount and the judge denied the request.  The lawyer then offered to post the client’s bond although the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure prohibits lawyers from paying for bail.  The judge advised the lawyer that he thought it would be unethical for her to post the bond and continued the case for a hearing on May 25, 2011.  The lawyer then requested that the client be brought back to court the following day and, after the judge denied her request, she replied, “Oh, that’s lovely.

In yet another incident before the same judge, the lawyer appeared on behalf of another client (Rivera), who she was appointed to represent on June 2, 2011.  She requested a reduction of the bond and, after her request was denied, she raised her voice.  When the judge told her that he had not lost his hearing, the lawyer continued to argue with a raised voice.  The judge then stated, “Let me just indicate again, you are yelling on the record. This happens all the time when you don’t get your way.  Because you lose something doesn’t mean you have to  start yelling at me.”  Following this incident, the lawyer was removed from her assignment and put on office duty.  In late July 2011, the Cook County Public Defender’s Office terminated the lawyer’s employment.

According to the Report, the lawyer represented herself in the discipline proceedings and testified in a rambling narrative.  She did not testify about her current practice, but did mention that she had some personal difficulties at the  time of her misconduct.  She said that her mother had recently passed away and she was still reeling from her death. She also said that her birthday was May 10, which was the day before her initial misconduct and that her birthday reminded her of her mother. She also tried to explain her conduct by saying that she was working  in a “hostile environment.”  The lawyer also offered the  testimony of Steven Shobat and he Hesaid that he met the lawyer when they were both at the  U.S. Attorney’s Office and the lawyer was a mentor to him.  He testified that she had a reputation as an ethical and honest attorney, they went into private practice together in 1994 and the partnership lasted about eighteen months, and the lawyer is “passionate” about her clients.

Bottom line:  This appears to be another example of an assistant public defender who was overwhelmed by her workload and/or her personal life and acted overly “passionate” on behalf of her clients.  If it is upheld, the 90 day suspension recommendation also appears to be relatively light for the cited misconduct…

Let’s be careful out there!

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, Attorney/client confidentiality, Attorney/client privilege and confidentiality, Confidentiality and privilege, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer disrupting tribunal, Lawyer disruptive conduct, Lawyer disruptive litigation conduct, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions

Illinois lawyer stipulates to a public reprimand for, inter alia, violating client confidences in her response to an unfavorable client review on AVVO

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will update my 9/9/13 blog and will discuss the January 15, 2014 Joint Stipulation between an Illinois lawyer and the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission wherein the lawyer admitted to, inter alia, violating a client’s confidences when she posted a response to a client’s allegedly false AVVO post which went beyond what was necessary to defend herself.  The case is In the Matter of Betty Tsamis,Commission No. 2013PR00095 (1/15/14).  The Joint Stipulation is at http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11221.

The Joint Stipulation states that the following facts would be established regarding the allegations that the lawyer revealed client confidences in responding to the AVVO post:

“On September 6, 2012, Respondent agreed to represent Richard Rinehart (“Rinehart”) in matters related to Rinehart’s securing unemployment benefits from his former employer, American Airlines. American Airlines had terminated Rinehart’s employment as a flight attendant because Rinehart allegedly assaulted a fellow flight attendant during a flight. Rinehart paid Respondent $1,500 towards her fee.

Between September 6, 2012 and January 16, 2013, Respondent met with Rinehart on at least two occasions and obtained information from Rinehart concerning both his employment history at American Airlines and the alleged incident involving the other flight attendant. Respondent also reviewed Rinehart’s personnel file, which she had obtained from American Airlines.

On January 16, 2013, Respondent represented Rinehart at a telephonic hearing before the Illinois Department of Employment Security (“IDES”), at the conclusion of which the IDES determined to deny Rinehart unemployment benefits. Shortly thereafter, Rinehart terminated Respondent’s representation of him.  On or about February 5, 2013, Rinehart posted a client review of Respondent’s services on the legal referral website AVVO, in which he discussed his dissatisfaction with Respondent’s services.

On February 7, 2013 and February 8, 2013, Respondent contacted Rinehart by email and requested that Rinehart remove the February 5, 2013 posting about her from the AVVO website. Rinehart responded that he refused to remove the posting unless he received a copy of his files and a full refund of the $1,500 he had paid Respondent as fees.  Sometime between February 5, 2013 and April 10, 2013, AVVO removed Rinehart’s posting from its online client reviews of Respondent.

On April 10, 2013, Rinehart posted a second negative client review of Respondent on AVVO. Respondent replied to his post and revealed confidential information about his case. Respondent’s reply to Rinehart’s second posting contained information relating to her representation of Rinehart and exceeded what was necessary to respond to Rinehart’s accusations. (bold added).

Factors in mitigation.  Respondent was admitted to practice law in Illinois on May 4, 2006 and practices in Chicago where she concentrates her practice in the area of employment and civil rights law. Respondent has no prior disciplinary history. Respondent understands the seriousness of her misconduct and has expressed remorse for it. She has taken steps to more carefully manage her recordkeeping in order to minimize the likelihood of future errors involving her client fund account, so that future overdrafts do not occur. Those steps include reviewing client ledgers and settlement statements with greater detail before issuing checks, and ensuring that she deposits money into the client trust account to account for credit card fees.  If this matter proceeded to a hearing, several lawyers and clients would have testified to Respondent’s excellent reputation for truth and veracity.  The Administrator and Respondent agree and jointly recommend that a reprimand be administered by the Hearing Board pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770(h) and Commission.”

Bottom line:  As I previously stated, all communication via digital media is a potential minefield, which this case clearly illustrates.  Although lawyers are generally permitted to reveal confidences to defend allegations by clients against them and it appears that the lawyer was justified in her frustration with the (former) client, she agreed in the stipulation that she went too far by revealing confidential information that went beyond the information necessary to defend herself against the allegedly false statements made by the client in the AVVO post and she agreed to a public reprimand.

Let’s be careful out there!                      

Disclaimer:  this blog is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

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Ohio Ethics Advisory Opinion states that Ohio lawyers are not prohibited from soliciting potential clients via text messages

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the 2013 Advisory Opinion of the Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline which states that Ohio lawyers are not prohibited from soliciting potential clients via text messages with certain caveats. The Advisory Opinion is online here: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Boards/BOC/Advisory_Opinions/2013/Op_13-002.pdf

The Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline issued Advisory Opinion 2013-12 in April 2013.  The advisory opinion states that lawyers are permitted to use text messages to solicit clients if the texts comply with all Ohio Bar rules, including lawyer advertising and other general Bar rules.  The opinion states that lawyers sending the text messages must pay all of the costs of the texting, cannot make false, misleading, or non-verifiable statements, or engage in coercion, duress, or harassment.

The advisory opinion states that “(t)he Board’s view is that a standard text message is more akin to an email than a chat room communication.  Accordingly, a typical text message is not a ‘real time’ electronic contact.”  The significance of this analysis is that, if the text was considered to be real time contact, such solicitations would be prohibited.

The advisory opinion also states that, pursuant to Ohio Bar rules, “the text message must notify the recipient of the means by which the lawyer learned of the potential need for legal services, for example, from accident reports or a court docket, and include ‘ADVERTISING MATERIAL’ or ‘ADVERTISEMENT ONLY’ at both the beginning and ending of the message. These descriptors must be conspicuous and in capital letters as designated in the rule. The text message also cannot include an evaluation of the case or a prediction of the outcome.”

Bottom line:  The opinion’s finding that text message solicitations are “more akin to” a chat room and are not “real time” electronic communications means that Ohio lawyers can send text messages to potential clients, including potential personal injury clients, if the lawyer complies with the Ohio Bar rules

Let’s be careful out there!                          

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

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