Monthly Archives: May 2015

Illinois lawyer who lied about mother’s death and health problems to justify discovery delays and the continuance of a hearing consents to disbarment

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent motion for revocation/disbarment filed by an Illinois lawyer in response to allegations that he lied about his mother’s death and his own health to try to justify discovery delays and support a continuance of a hearing in two separate cases.  The case is In the Matter of: Keith Joseph Hays, Supreme Court No. M.R.27422 Commission No. 2014PR00065.  The lawyer resigned from the Indiana Bar in April 2015.  The lawyer filed a motion requesting that his name be stricken from the list of Illinois Attorneys and the link to the Illinois Bar Statement of Charges and is here:  http://www.iardc.org/P14PR0065OC.html

According to the Statement of Charges, the lawyer lied about the reasons for his delayed responses to discovery and request to continue a hearing in two Indiana cases, and made settlement offers without authorization in a third case.

In one case, the lawyer justified his delays in responding to discovery requests by claiming that his mother had been “killed in a violent car accident in the state of Colorado.”  The lawyer also said that she died in “the fire and smoke inhalation from the resulting conflagration,” and that he was “left scrambling between Indiana, Colorado and Idaho for weeks trying to get his mother buried, her estate resolved and her pets adopted.”  The lawyer’s mother not been involved in a car accident or died.

In another case, the lawyer filed an emergency motion to continue a hearing and claimed that he had been diagnosed with “double pneumonia” and went to an emergency room; however, the lawyer did not actually have pneumonia and, incredibly, he billed his client for time that he spent working on the case when he was supposedly incapacitated.

The lawyer admitted to the following facts:

“In 2011, Respondent represented Staples the Office Superstore East (a subsidiary of Staples, Inc.; hereafter, “Staples”), the defendant in a personal injury action filed in Indiana state court by Max Jackson (“Jackson”). In the course of discovery, Jackson filed a motion for sanctions alleging that Respondent’s client, Staples, had failed to fully respond to a request for production of documents and interrogatories. Respondent filed a response in which he claimed, in part, that his mother had been “killed in a violent car accident in the state of Colorado,” that she perished from “the fire and smoke inhalation from the resulting conflagration,” and that Respondent “was left scrambling between Indiana, Colorado and Idaho for weeks trying to get his mother buried, her estate resolved and her pets adopted.” Respondent’s statements were false, and he knew they were false, since his mother had neither died nor been involved in a car accident, and Respondent had not been “left scrambling between Indiana, Colorado and Idaho” to resolve his mother’s affairs.”

“In 2011, Respondent represented Reed & Company, P.C. (“Reed”), the defendant in a civil lawsuit filed in Indiana state court by Wabash Center, Inc. (“Wabash”). After Wabash filed a motion for partial summary judgment, the court set the matter for hearing on that motion. On the date of the scheduled hearing, Respondent filed an emergency motion requesting that the hearing be continued, based on his representation that the day before, he had been diagnosed with “double pneumonia” and sent to the emergency room. Respondent’s statements were false, and Respondent knew they were false, as Respondent had not been sent to the emergency room with pneumonia, and in fact, he had billed his client Reed for time spent preparing a summary judgment motion on Reed’s behalf during the time period that he purportedly was incapacitated.”

Bottom line: According to the facts to which the lawyer admitted, he made some incredible false statements which could easily be refuted, and his lies were ultimately discovered.  I’m not doctor, but there would appear to be some serious psychological issues underlying this conduct.

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, Attorney misrepresentation, deceit, dishonesty, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer disbarment, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer false statements, Lawyer filing frivolous pleading, Lawyer misrepresentation, Lawyer resignation in lieu of discipline/disbarment, Lawyer sanctions

Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspends lawyer for 2 years for assisting UPL, improperly accessing CM/ECF, and making false statements

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court Order approving the Report and Recommendations of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board and suspending a lawyer for 2 years for, inter alia, aiding the unlicensed practice of law, improperly accessing the bankruptcy court’s CM/ECF system, and making false statements when he was confronted with the allegations.  The case is Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. William Nivan Renwick, No. 2146 Disc. Docket No. 3, No. 153 DB 2013  (Pa. SC May 14, 2015).  The link to the SC Order and Report and Recommendations are here: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/DisciplinaryBoard/out/153DB2013-Renwick.pdf.

According to the March 12, 2015 Report and Recommendations of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board, the lawyer, who had been practicing for more than 30 years, appeared at hearings and creditor meeting for “several” of a suspended lawyer’s clients and filed documents with U.S. Western District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Court CM/ECF system by using the suspended lawyer’s electronic filing account number.  The lawyer also changed the name on the suspended lawyer’s CM/ECF account twice, once in December 2007 to the name of a lawyer who was not licensed to practice, and a second time in November 2009 to his own name.

The Report further states that the lawyer did not have the required training to use the CM/ECF system and improperly used the suspended lawyer’s account.  At a hearing held in August 2012, the chief judge of the bankruptcy court ordered the CM/ECF account closed and required the lawyer to send notices to the those involved in his cases stating that his authorization to file documents on the system had been terminated.

When the chief judge asked the lawyer where worked at the hearing, he told the judge he had been “working in the other office in whatever it is, Altoona or whatever”, which was a false statement.  The lawyer was then suspended from practice before the District Court.  According to the Report, “(n)ot only did (the lawyer) assist (the suspended lawyer) in the unauthorized practice of law, his own practice was in violation of the federal rules because he didn’t obtain his own identification number. When asked about his practices, (the lawyer) told the judge he practiced in the office of Augusto Delerme in Altoona.”  The Pennsylvanoa Supreme Court upheld the Board’s recommendation and suspended the lawyer for 2 years

Bottom line:  This lawyer apparently was trying to help a suspended lawyer; however, he failed dismally in his attempts and he also made some misleading/false statements at the hearing before the chief judge along the way.

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, Attorney misrepresentation, dishonesty, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law, Lawyer assisting unlicensed practice of law (UPL), Lawyer assisting UPL, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer false statements, Lawyer sanctions, Unauthorized practice of law

Texas judge admonished for commenting on pending criminal case on her Facebook page and violating her own order

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct admonished a Texas district court judge for commenting about a controversial trial on her public Facebook page after issuing jury instructions prohibiting same.  The case is In re: Hon. Michelle Slaughter, CJC No. 14-0820-DI & 14-0838-DI  (April 20, 2015).  The link to the opinion is here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2066528-slaughter-admonition-2015.html and here: http://www.scjc.state.tx.us/pdf/actions/FY2015-PUBSANC.pdf

According to the admonition, the judge maintained a public Facebook page which had an image of her in a robe, which she said she set up to fulfill a campaign promise to educate the public about the courts.  The judge presided over a criminal case in which in which a defendant named David Wieseckel was criminally charged with unlawful restraint for allegedly keeping a 9-year-old boy in a 6 feet by 8 feet wooden enclosure that was used as the child’s bedroom.

The admonition states:  “On April 26, 2014, Judge Slaughter posted the following comment on her Facebook page: ‘We have a big criminal trial starting Monday! Jury selection Monday and opening statements Tues. morning.’ The following day, in response to the post described above, a person named Jeff Bodie posted the following comment on Judge Slaughter’s Facebook page: ‘One of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies is ‘Hang ‘Em High’, jus [sic] sayin [sic] your honor……’”

“In a pre-trial hearing on April 28, 2014, the defendant’s attorney argued a motion in limine to limit the use of the term ‘box’ to describe the wooden enclosure at trial, contending that the term was prejudicial to the defendant and misstated the evidence. Judge Slaughter denied defense counsel’s motion, stating the following: ‘Calling it a wooden enclosure – certainly the press has referred to it as ‘The Boy in the Box’ case, that sort of thing. So I don’t think that there’s going to be prejudice. The jury can make up their own minds as to what they believe that is.’”

“On April 28, 2014, after the jury had been selected, Judge Slaughter provided the jurors with oral instructions regarding their use of social media, including Facebook, and their access to any news stories about the case. The judge expressly admonished the jurors as follows: ‘During the trial of the case, as I mentioned before, you cannot talk to anyone. So make sure that you don’t talk to anyone. Again, this is by any means of communication. So no texting, e-mailing, talking person to person or on the phone or Facebook. Any of that is absolutely forbidden.’”

“In addition the judge provided written instructions to the jury that included the following admonition: ‘Do not make any investigation about the facts of this case. … All evidence must be presented in open court so that each side may question the witnesses and make proper objection. This avoids a trial based upon secret evidence. These rules apply to jurors the same as they apply to the parties and to me (the judge).’”

“On April 29, 2014, after the first day of testimony, Judge Slaughter posted the following comments on her Facebook page: • ‘Opening statements this morning at 9:30 am in the trial called by the press ‘the boy in the box’ case.’” • ‘After we finished Day 1 of the case called the ‘Boy in the Box’ case, trustees from the jail came in and assembled the actual 6”x8’ ‘box’ inside the courtroom!’ • ‘This is the case currently in the 405th!” [this post included a link to a Reuters article entitled: “Texas father on trial for putting son in a box as punishment.’]”

The judge was later removed from the case after defense counsel filed a motion to recuse her, claiming that she had improperly commented about the trial on her Facebook page and improperly posted the link to the Reuters article.  Following her recusal, the case was transferred to another judge who judge granted a motion for a mistrial.

The judge argued at her discipline hearing that her Facebook posts were to promote “transparency” and to “encourage individuals to come watch the proceedings” and that the posts made it clear that it was the media which referred to the case as the “boy in the box” case. She also said she was “shocked” to see the “Hang ‘Em High” post and removed it from her page months later. She also argued that all of her comments were true and based on publicly available information.

The admonition noted that the judge’s Facebook posts, her recusal, and the subsequent mistrial received widespread negative media attention which criticized her conduct.  The judge had also posted comments on her Facebook page about another criminal trial pending in her court.  The judge removed the Facebook page after the investigation began.

“Despite her contention that the information she provided was public information, Judge Slaughter cast reasonable doubt upon her own impartiality and violated her own admonition to jurors by turning to social media to publicly discuss cases pending in her court, giving rise to a legitimate concern that she would not be fair or impartial in the Wieseckel case or in other high-profile cases.” “The comments went beyond providing an explanation for the procedures of the court and highlighted evidence that had yet to be introduced.”  The admonition requires the judge to obtain four hours of instruction with a mentor in addition to her required judicial education.

According to media reports, the judge stated that she disagreed with the commission’s decision but would appeal.  She also stated: “ None of my statements indicated any probable decision I would make, and none of my statements expressed a bias for or against any particular party. Everything I posted was publicly-available information”.

Bottom line:  This is yet another example of a judge landing in hot water for comments made on social media, this time on Facebook.  Judges (and lawyers) who maintain social media pages and make comments on them must be aware of the consequences of comments which may be inappropriate and which could result in discipline, which occurred in this case.  If the judge appeals, the Texas Supreme Court will issue a final opinion.

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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, Judge discipline Facebook posts, Judicial discipline social media ethics, Judicial ethics