Monthly Archives: April 2015

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Florida’s judicial rule prohibiting direct campaign contribution solicitations by judges and judicial candidates

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the very recent United States Supreme Court opinion upholding Florida’s judicial rule prohibiting judges and judicial candidates from directly soliciting campaign contributions.  The case is Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, No. 13-1499.  (April 29, 2015).  The link to the opinion is here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-1499_d18e.pdf

A Florida lawyer named Lanell Williams-Yulee was a 2009 candidate for a county court judgeship.  She signed a letter asking potential voters to donate to her campaign.  She lost the election and was subsequently prosecuted by The Florida Bar as a lawyer for an alleged violation of 7C(1) the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.  After the lawyer was found guilty, The Florida Supreme Court reviewed the matter and upheld the guilty finding.  The lawyer then filed for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Canon, arguing that it violated the First Amendment by restricting her speech.

As background, the Florida Supreme Court implemented the prohibition of direct solicitation for judges and judicial candidates in the 1970s after three of that Court’s justices resigned as a result corruption scandals. The opinion states that, “(a)ccording to the American Bar Association, 30 of the 39 States that elect trial or appellate judges have adopted restrictions similar to Canon 7C(1).”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 opinion which upheld the prohibition of direct solicitation.  Interestingly, he was on the same side as the four liberal justices.   The opinion states:

“Unlike the executive or the legislature, the judiciary “has no influence over either the sword or the purse; . . . neither force nor will but merely judgment.” The Federalist No. 78, p. 465 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (A. Hamilton) (capitalization altered). The judiciary’s authority therefore depends in large measure on the public’s willingness to respect and follow its decisions.”

 

“A State’s interest in preserving public confidence in the integrity of its judiciary extends beyond its interest in preventing the appearance of corruption in legislative and executive elections, because a judge’s role differs from that of a politician. Republican Party of Minn. v. White, 536 U. S. 765, 783. Unlike a politician, who is expected to be appropriately responsive to the preferences of supporters, a judge in deciding cases may not follow the preferences of his supporters or provide any special consideration to his campaign donors. As in White, therefore, precedents applying the First Amendment to political elections have little bearing on the issues here.”

“Yulee relies heavily on the provision of Canon 7C(1) that allows solicitation by a candidate’s campaign committee. But Florida, along with most other States, has reasonably concluded that solicitation by the candidate personally creates a categorically different and more severe risk of undermining public confidence than does solicitation by a campaign committee. When the judicial candidate himself asks for money, the stakes are higher for all involved. A judicial candidate asking for money places his name and reputation behind the request, and the solicited individual knows that the same person who signed the fundraising letter might one day sign the judgment. This dynamic inevitably creates pressure for the recipient to comply, in a way that solicitation by a third party does not. Just as inevitably, the personal involvement of the candidate in the solicitation creates the public appearance that the candidate will remember who says yes, and who says no. However similar the two solicitations may be in substance, a State may conclude that they present markedly different appearances to the public.”

 

“The desirability of judicial elections is a question that has sparked disagreement for more than 200 years, but it is not the Court’s place to resolve that enduring debate. The Court’s limited task is to apply the Constitution to the question presented in this case. Judicial candidates have a First Amendment right to speak in support of their campaigns. States have a compelling interest in preserving public confidence in their judiciaries. When the State adopts a narrowly tailored restriction like the one at issue here, those principles do not conflict. A State’s decision to elect judges does not compel it to compromise public confidence in their integrity.”

“(W)e hold today what we assumed in White:  A State may restrict the speech of a judicial candidate only if the restriction is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest.”  “Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a State’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money. We affirm the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his dissent, states that “(b)y cutting off one candidate’s personal freedom to speak, the broader campaign debate that might have followed—a debate that might have been informed by new ideas and insights from both candidates—now is silenced” along with the “educational process that free speech in elections should facilitate.”

 

Bottom line:  This is an important U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a Florida prohibition of solicitation by a judge or judicial candidate in the ongoing (and long running) debate regarding the balancing of First Amendment/free speech with the regulation of judicial elections.  The decision is surprising since the Supreme Court’s current conservative majority has stricken down virtually every campaign-finance limitation in the past decade, stating that political contributions spending are the equivalent of free speech, which generally cannot be limited.  In addition, Chief Justice Roberts joined the four liberal justices in the decision.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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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Indiana lawyer disbarred for, inter alia, “profoundly disturbing” harassment, “repugnant pattern of behavior and utter lack of remorse”

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Indiana Supreme Court opinion which disbarred a lawyer for a “repugnant pattern of behavior and utter lack of remorse”, deceitful responses and lack of candor, neglect involving an appeal, unwillingness to appreciate the wrongfulness of his misconduct, and propensity to shift blame to others and see himself as the victim.  The case is In the Matter of R. Mark Keaton, No. 02S00-1302-DI-95 (April 21, 2015).  The link to the opinion is here: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/04211501per.pdf

According to the opinion, the lawyer, who was married at the time, began a romantic relationship with his daughter’s roommate.  The roommate ended the “tempestuous long-distance relationship” in March 2008 and “from March 2008 through April 2010, at least 7,199 emails were exchanged between The lawyer and the roommate), the vast majority sent by (the lawyer). Both (the lawyer’s) oral and written communications to (the roommate) were threatening, abusive, and highly manipulative in nature.”

The lawyer also left “profoundly disturbing” voice mails on the roommate’s telephone and the opinion gave an example of one of the them: “(Shouting) Call me the f— back! I don’t know who the f— you think you are.  But I’ll tell you what, you better f—ing call me f—ing back now!  You f— with me one more time and this time you’ll really f—ing pay for it!  And you need to think about it! Now you f—ing quit f—ing with me!”

The lawyer also threatened suicide and carried through on his threat to post nude photos of the roommate, by sending them to others in e-mails, posting them on adult websites, and posting them on his own blog, along with “disparaging diatribes” about her.  According to the opinion, the lawyer still refuses to take down his blog.  The lawyer also filed three lawsuits against the roommate and others and “made duplicitous statements to the (disciplinary commission) in reference to those related proceedings.”

The lawyer argued that his contact with the roommate was mutual and consensual.  He further argued that she had a form of mental illness and her requests for him to stop contacting her actually indicated her desire to submit to him.  He also argued that his actions did not constitute stalking or harassment.

The opinion states that this “outrageous behavior falls woefully short” of the ethics requirements that lawyers be of good moral character and fitness. “Put simply, (the lawyer) engaged in-and continues to engage in-a scorched earth campaign of revenge in the wake of being dumped by (the roommate) seven years ago”. “Most disturbingly, despite the entreaties of (the roommate) and several others, (the lawyer) simply has refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.”  The Court disbarred the lawyer effective immediately since the lawyer was already suspended and imposed costs.

Bottom line:  This case involves some very disturbing conduct by a lawyer who apparently went off the deep end and engaged in outrageous conduct when an individual with whom he was having a relationship (his daughter’s former roommate no less) broke it off.  This case is disturbing on multiple levels, including the apparent complete lack of recognition by the lawyer that his conduct was outrageous and unethical and arguing that it was not stalking or harassment.

Be careful out there (and of course don’t do this).

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer disbarment, Lawyer disbarment personal misconduct, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions, Lawyer threats and discipline

Illinois Disciplinary Board upholds lawyer’s 6 month suspension for, inter alia, keeping fees and “indefensibly outrageous” statements

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Illinois Disciplinary Review Board report which recommended a 6 month suspension (with no automatic reinstatement) of a lawyer who failed to perform legal services for which he was retained, failed to return unearned fees, failed to communicate with clients and failed to reduce fee agreements to writing, and making “indefensibly outrageous” statements about lawyers and a court deputy in litigation cases.  The case is In the Matter of: David Alan Novoselsky, Commission No. 2011PR00043, SC No. 2069881 (April 10, 2015).  The link to the Board recommendation is here: http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11701

The Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission upheld a Hearing Board’s findings that the lawyer failed to perform legal services for which he was retained, failed to return unearned fees, failed to communicate with clients, and failed to reduce fee agreements to writing.  According to the Board’s report, the lawyer also called a female lawyer derogatory names, including “b—-,’ ‘‘asshole,” “slut,” “c—,” “pervert,” “whore” and “child molester”.  He called another lawyer an “idiot” and a “cokehead,” and he also called a deputy a “dumbbell” after she asked him to lower his voice.

“(The lawyer) denied making some of the statements and could not remember if he had made other statements. However, he admitted making several of the statements.  He often claimed he was provoked by undocumented personal attacks against him or claimed that the parties were “ribbing” each other, although witnesses confirmed (a witness’s) testimony that she did not provoke, react, or respond to these statements.”  “His attacks on opposing counsel and a court deputy displayed an utter disregard for the integrity of the courts…(w)hile he may still believe that he was provoked, the record indicates otherwise.  We find his conduct to be indefensibly outrageous.”

“Because we find (the lawyer’s) actions to be egregious and because respondent lacks any remorse or understanding of his misconduct, we recommend to the court that he be suspended for six months and until further order of the court.”  The hearing board had recommended a six-month suspension with automatic reinstatement.  The review board also recommended that the lawyer be ordered to return $30,000 in restitution of unearned fees.

The Board noted in mitigation that the lawyer had practiced law for 40 years without being disciplined, he had performed pro bono work, and had been active in bar associations.  There was no mention of any other mitigation, such as substance abuse or other personal issues.

Bottom line:  This case involved an Illinois lawyer who apparently went off the deep end and made outrageous derogatory statements in highly contested litigation cases.  He also apparently kept unearned fees, failed to perform legal services, failed to obtain written fee agreements, and failed to communicate with clients.  The Illinois Supreme Court will review the recommendation and it will be interesting to see if the Court agrees or increases the recommended sanction.  Stay tuned…

Be careful out there (and of course don’t do this).

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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 joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer improper fees, Lawyer lack of communication with client, Lawyer sanctions, Lawyer unreasonable fee

Indiana assistant public defender suspended for one year for texting prostitute to a cell telephone in police custody and soliciting prostitution

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Indiana Supreme Court opinion suspending an assistant public defender for one year for, inter alia, sending a text to a person who he believed was a prostitute to a cell telephone in police cust

ody and soliciting that person for prostitution, and then meeting an undercover police officer at a hotel to solicit sex from her.  The opinion is In the Matter of: Christopher A. Hollander, No. 49S00-1402-DI-118 (Ind. SC March 24, 2015) and the link to the disciplinary opinion is here: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/03241501per.pdf

According to the opinion, “H.S., using a fictitious name, had placed an online classified advertisement for escort services that listed her cell phone number.  At some point, H.S. was arrested by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (“IMPD”) for engaging in prostitution.  Respondent had seen and remembered H.S.’s classified advertisement, and when Respondent came across a police report containing the same phone number, he was able to determine specific arrest information regarding H.S. and thereafter identify her.”

The lawyer, who was an assistant public defender, texted that telephone number in November 2012 believing that the text was going to H.S.; however, the telephone was actually in the possession of the Indianapolis police and an officer impersonating the woman responded to the text.  The lawyer told the officer impersonating H.S. that he could help her with her situation and that he would “work with her” with regard to the attorney fees.  The lawyer set up a time to meet the undercover office who he believed to be H.S. and went to a hotel to meet her in December 2012. When the lawyer arrived at the hotel, he tried to hug and kiss the officer impersonating H.S. and made statements indicating that he wanted sex with her in exchange for legal services.

The lawyer and the Indiana Bar stipulated to the facts and to a one year suspension.  In mitigation, “(1) Respondent has no prior discipline; (2) following his arrest, Respondent sought help from the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (“JLAP”), he has been under a JLAP monitoring agreement, and he has been receiving psychological therapy and treatment; (3) Respondent was candid with police immediately following his arrest; and (4) Respondent has expressed remorse for his behavior.

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted the stipulation and suspended the lawyer for a minimum of one year with the requirement that he petition for reinstatement at the end of the suspension period and meet the requirements for reinstatement, which include satisfying “the burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence remorse for his misconduct, a proper understanding of the standards imposed upon members of the bar.”

Bottom line:  This case involves lawyer who apparently abused his position as an assistant public defender to obtain information on an alleged prostitute for purposes of solicitation and then actually solicited an undercover police officer for prostitution at a hotel.   The lawyer had no previous discipline, was fully cooperative, and is receiving psychological therapy and treatment; however, he received a one year rehabilitative suspension for the misconduct.  I am not sure what might be more embarrassing for a lawyer than this type of misconduct and discipline.

Be careful out there (and please don’t do this).

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship 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, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer discipline alleged sexual misconduct, Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction, Lawyer discipline soliciting prostitution, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions