Two Texas lawyers arrested on conspiracy to commit murder charges in alleged plot to kill another lawyer

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the recent arrest of two lawyers in Waco, Texas, on charges of felony conspiracy to commit capital murder in an alleged plot to kill another attorney.

According to media reports, the lawyers include a well-known criminal defense lawyer in Waco, Texas and an associate lawyer who works at his firm.  The lawyers allegedly tried to hire a contract killer to carry the murder of the associate’s  former husband, who is also a lawyer.  The former husband was arrested in February 2020 and charged with improper sexual contact with a 10-year-old female family member in December 2019.

The alleged contract killer was actually an undercover police officer, who apparently infiltrated the motorcycle club in which the criminal defense lawyer was a founder and president.  The law enforcement arrest affidavit allege that the criminal defense lawyer solicited the undercover officer to kill the former husband on May 14, 2020 and allegedly offered the officer $300.00 to buy a gun and stated he would help him leave town after the killing.

On May 21, 2020, the lawyers allegedly met with the undercover officer, instructed him to kill the former husband at his home, and gave him the $300.00 to buy the gun.  The arrest affidavits do not specify how much the lawyers offered to pay for the contract killing or why they wanted him killed. The lawyers were released from jail after each posting $1 million bonds.

Bottom line:  This is another very bizarre story involving lawyers.  These lawyers apparently decided to hire a contract killer to murder the former husband, who is accused of improper sexual contact with a 10-year-old female family member, instead of allowing the judicial system to run its course.

Stay safe and healthy and be careful out there.

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.

2999 Alt. 19, Suite A

Palm Harbor, Florida

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

Joseph Corsmeierabout.me/corsmeierethicsblogs
Posted in Attorney ethics, corsmeier, Criminal misconduct murder for hire, joe corsmeier, joseph corsmeier, Lawyer criminal misconduct murder for hire, Lawyer professionalism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Jersey lawyer suspended for, inter alia, revealing confidential information in review of former client’s business

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss recent New Jersey Supreme Court opinion which imposed a one year suspension on a lawyer for, inter alia, providing a negative public review of a client’s business on Yelp and disclosing confidential information in the review.  The case is: In the Matter of Brian LeBon Calpin (New Jersey Supreme Court No. D-67 083821).  The May 7, 2020 opinion is here:  http://drblookupportal.judiciary.state.nj.us/DocumentHandler.ashx?document_id=1129260

The NJ SC opinion essentially adopts the NJ Disciplinary Review Board Decision which found that the lawyer posted a negative public review of the client’s massage business on June 24, 2018 on the Yelp website after the client had posted public negative online reviews of his legal services.  The lawyer had ceased representing the client in “early summer 2017”.  The DRB Decision is here:  http://drblookupportal.judiciary.state.nj.us/DocumentHandler.ashx?document_id=1124239

According to the Decision, the lawyer’s review of the former client’s massage business on Yelp stated:

“Well, Angee is a convicted felon for fleeing the state with children. A wonderful parent. Additionally, she has been convicted of shoplifting from a supermarket. Hide your wallets well during a massage. Oops, almost forgot about the DWI conviction. Well, maybe a couple of beers during the massage would be nice.”

The Decision further states that, in his response to the ethics complaint, lawyer stated:

“As to the Yelp rating about (the former client’s) massage therapy business, I admit to same. I was very upset by [her] Yelp rating of my practice. This rating was made more than a year and a half after the conclusion of my representation. My disclosures, i.e. her arrests, were public information and I did not violate attorney client privilege. My position was that what was good for the goose was good for the gander. I do concede that I do not believe that the rating was my finest moment. However, it was not unethical. That posting has subsequently been taken down.”

The Decision found that, although the information posted by the lawyer may have been publicly available, the information was not generally known; therefore, the “generally known” exception in the New Jersey Bar rules regarding client confidentiality did not apply.  The decision also quoted ABA Formal Opinion 479 (December 15, 2017):  “[T]he phrase ‘generally known’ means much more than publicly available or accessible. It means that the information has already received widespread publicity.”

The Decision also found that the lawyer’s conduct in three other client matters violated ethics rules related to neglect, diligence, failure to keep clients informed, failure to deliver client funds or property, and failure to return client property after representation. The lawyer also told to a Bar investigator that he had sent a refund check to a former client, which was a misrepresentation.

The lawyer had prior discipline for “similar ethics infractions, evidencing his failure to learn from past mistakes: a June 19, 2014 reprimand for gross neglect, lack of diligence, and failure to communicate with a client, and a January 24, 2017 admonition for lack of diligence in a client matter.”

Bottom line:  This is another unfortunate example of a lawyer reacting badly to a client’s negative online review and including confidential (and not generally known) information in responding to a negative client review.  As I have said and written many times, lawyers are not permitted to include client confidential information in responding to negative online reviews that are in the public domain.

Stay safe and healthy and be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this Ethics Alert 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.

2999 Alt. 19, Suite A

Palm Harbor, Florida

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Posted in Attorney discipline, Attorney ethics, attorney-client privilege, Attorney/client confidentiality, Attorney/client privilege, Confidential Information, Confidentiality, corsmeier, deceit, dishonesty, joe corsmeier, joseph corsmeier, Lawyer Ethics, Lawyer misrepresentation, Lawyer negative Yelp review, Lawyer revealing confidential information on internet in response to complaint, Lawyer sanctions, Lawyer sanctions for revealing confidential information, Lawyer violation of confidentiality on internet, Lawyer/client confidentiality, Lawyers and social media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Utah Supreme Court proposals would permit non-lawyers to own law firms and share fees with lawyers

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss recent Utah Supreme Court proposals which would permit non-lawyers to won law firms, share fees with lawyers, and make other significant revisions.  The link with the Utah Supreme Court Regulatory Reform Proposals is here:  http://www.utcourts.gov/utc/rules-comment/2020/04/24/supreme-court-regulatory-reform-proposal-comment-period-closes-july-23-2020/

The proposals would allow non-lawyers to own or invest in law firms, eliminate the prohibition on attorney fee sharing with non-lawyers, and create a new Office of Legal Services Innovation.  These proposals result from a review conducted by Utah’s Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform, which was created after a working group issued a report in 2019 recommending a variety of measures to address access to legal services. The Utah Supreme Court is requesting comments by July 23, 2020.

If the proposals are implemented, Utah would join the United Kingdom and Australia in permitting such activities and it would the first U.S. jurisdiction to make these changes, although Washington D.C. does allow non-lawyers to own law firms).

If the proposals are adopted, a pilot regulatory “sandbox” would oversee and evaluate nontraditional legal services providers and entities offering new types of legal services. The oversight would be provided by a new Office of Legal Services Innovation, which would conduct reviews to ensure that “sandbox” participants are meeting the various objectives and principles set forth by the Utah Supreme Court.  A process would also be established for determining which participants would receive the appropriate license to practice law.

The Utah Supreme Court issued a press release on April 24, 2020 describing the proposals and providing information.  The link to the press release is here: http://www.utcourts.gov/utc/rules-comment/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2020/04/Supreme-Court-Regulatory-Reform-PR-4-24-20.pdf.  According to the press release:

“The Utah Supreme Court has recognized the lack of affordable legal services can be devastating for many people. Between free but limited legal aid, and standard attorney service that can easily exceed $200 an hour, there are few options for affordable legal help.  The current COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of finding new, affordable, and high-quality innovations as quickly as possible.

That is why the Supreme Court is offering expedited review and approval of proposals from individuals and entities who believe they can offer low-cost, or no-cost, legal advice for small businesses, people with unemployment issues, and others.”

Bottom line:  These Utah Supreme Court proposals have been under review and consideration in Utah for a number of years and I have previously blogged about them.  It now appears that the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic disruption have accelerated the Utah Supreme Court’s view of the necessity for these revisions/programs and that the changes be expedited.

Stay safe and healthy and be careful out there.

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.

2999 Alt. 19, Suite A

Palm Harbor, Florida

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

Joseph Corsmeierabout.me/corsmeierethicsblogs
Posted in joe corsmeier, joseph corsmeier, lawyers sharing fees with non-lawyers, Non-lawyer ownership of law firms, Uncategorized, Utah pilot program permitting non-traditional legal services, including non-lawyer firm ownership | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

ABA Formal Opinion 491 discusses a lawyer’s obligation to avoid counseling or assisting a client in a crime or fraud

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss recent ABA  Formal Opinion 491 (issued 4/29/20), which discusses and provides guidance regarding a lawyer’s obligation to avoid counseling or assisting in crime or fraud in non-litigation settings.  The opinion is here:  https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/aba-formal-opinion-491.pdf

The opinion states:  “ABA Model Rule 1.2(d) prohibits a lawyer from advising or assisting a client in a transaction or other non-litigation matter the lawyer ‘knows’ is criminal or fraudulent. That knowledge may be inferred from the circumstances, including a lawyer’s willful blindness or conscious disregard of available facts.”

“Even if information learned in the course of a preliminary interview or during a representation is insufficient to establish ‘knowledge’ under Rule 1.2(d), other rules may require further inquiry to help the client avoid crime or fraud, to advance the client’s legitimate interests, and to avoid professional misconduct. These include the duties of competence, diligence, communication, and honesty under Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.13, 1.16, and 8.4.”

“A lawyer’s reasonable evaluation after that inquiry based on information reasonably available at the time does not violate the rules. A lawyer’s reasonable evaluation after inquiry and based on information reasonably available at the time does not violate the rules. This opinion does not address the application of these rules in the representation of a client or prospective client who requests legal services in connection with litigation.”

The opinion concludes that: “where there is a high probability that a client seeks to use the lawyer’s services for criminal or fraudulent activity, the lawyer must inquire further to avoid advising or assisting such activity” and “(i)f the client or prospective client refuses to provide information necessary to assess the legality of the proposed transaction, the lawyer must ordinarily decline the representation or withdraw under Rule 1.16.”

Bottom line:  This ABA opinion states that, in order to comply with the lawyer’s obligations under ABA Rule 1.2(d) (which is substantial similar to Florida Bar Rule 4-1.2(d), if there is “a high probability that a client seeks to use the lawyer’s services for criminal or fraudulent activity”, the lawyer cannot engage in “willful blindness or conscious disregard of available facts” and the lawyer “must inquire further to avoid advising or assisting such activity.

Stay safe and healthy and be careful out there.

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.

2999 Alt. 19, Suite A

Palm Harbor, Florida

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

Joseph Corsmeierabout.me/corsmeierethicsblogs
Posted in ABA opinion 491- lawyer's obligation to avoid counseling or assisting client in crime or fraud, ABA opinions, Attorney ethics, corsmeier, Ethics Opinions, joe corsmeier, joseph corsmeier, Lawyer Ethics, Lawyer ethics opinions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Florida lawyer CLE reporting deadlines for March, April, May, June, and July 2020 extended to August 31, 2020

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the recent decision The Florida Bar’s BOG to further extend the February, March, April, May, June, and July 2020 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) reporting deadlines for Florida lawyers to August 31, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Florida Bar News article is here:  https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/428150/

The reporting deadline extension was already in place for those lawyers who were required to report in February, March, April, and May 2020 and has now been expanded to those lawyers with deadlines in June and July 2020.

Many (if not all) upcoming in-person CLE programs have been canceled and the processing and shipping of orders for Bar CLE CDs and CLE DVDs have suspended; however, The Florida Bar’s on-demand CLE remains available and the link to those CLE programs is here:  https://tfb.inreachce.com/

In addition, The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Center (LegalFuel) offers 90 free CLE programs online with 119.5 hours of general CLE credit.  Those CLE programs include 5 hours of ethics, 71 hours of technology, 8 hours of mental-health awareness, and 5 certification credits. The link to those programs is here: www.legalfuel.com/free-cle.

Bottom line: In another move caused by the pandemic, The Florida Bar has extended the deadlines for reporting CLE to August 31, 2020.  As I also previously reported, as a result of the pandemic, the Florida Supreme Court issued an Order on March 20, 2020 (amended April 9, 2020) suspending all time periods and deadlines for the following:

  1. Chapter 3 (Rules of Discipline), the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar for all Florida Bar discipline cases,
  2. Chapter 10 (UPL) for all unlicensed practice of law cases, and the filing and
  3. Lawyer advertisement evaluation requirements under Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-7.19 (Evaluation of Advertisements).

The link to the April 9, 2020 amended Order is here:  https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/633617/7199394/file/sc20-392.pdf

Stay safe and healthy and be careful out there.

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.

2999 Alt. 19, Suite A

Palm Harbor, Florida

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Please note:  My office has moved and the new office address is 2999 Alt. 19, Palm Harbor, FL 34683.  All other contact information remains the same.

Joseph Corsmeierabout.me/corsmeierethicsblogs
Posted in Florida Bar, Florida Bar CLE, Florida Supreme Court, joe corsmeier, joseph corsmeier, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Florida Bar Board of Governors reverses advertising opinion and finds that solicitation rules apply to targeted social media

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the recent Florida Bar Board of Governors (BOG)  reversal of a Florida Bar advertising committee opinion that found that targeted social media advertisements were not subject to the solicitation rules.

The BOG voted at its January 2020 meeting to reverse an opinion by the Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising related to a lawyer who wanted to use information that prospective class action members provided to social media platforms and target specific advertisements to their social media feeds.  The BOG’s Board Review Committee had previously voted 9-0 to recommend that the BOG reverse the Standing Committee on Advertising and find that these types of advertisements are direct solicitations and are required to comply with the direct contact/solicitation rules.

The inquiring lawyer did not indicate the specific legal matter that would be pursued; however, the lawyer gave, as an example, an advertisement for an employment class action that would be targeted to users who had told social media providers that they currently or previously worked for the potential defendant company.

The Bar advertising committee’s opinion found that this type of advertisement was subject to the direct contact/solicitation rule; however, it must comply with the general advertising rules.  The Florida Bar staff and professional ethics committee had also previously issued opinions stating that a lawyer posting information in an online chat room or sending text messages to telephones are required to comply with the direct contact/solicitation rules.

Bottom line:  As a result of the BOG decision (and unless it is reversed), lawyers who wish to use such targeted social media advertisements will be required to comply with the strict requirements of Florida Bar Rule 4-7.18(b) regarding direct contact with prospective clients.  Lawyers should also keep in mind that ethics and advertising opinions (and a BOG reversal of an opinion) are not binding and for guidance only; however, lawyers may be still subject to investigation and potential discipline if the interpretation of the rule is upheld.

Be careful out there.

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.

2999 Alt. 19, Suite A

Palm Harbor, Florida

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Please note:  My office has moved and the new office address is 2999 Alt. 19, Palm Harbor, FL 34683.  All other contact information remains the same.

Joseph Corsmeierabout.me/corsmeierethicsblogs
Posted in 2013 comprehensive Florida advertising rule revisions, Attorney ethics, Florida Bar, Florida Bar ethics, Florida Bar Rules, Florida lawyer advertising, Florida solicitation rule 4-7.18 social media class action, joe corsmeier, joseph corsmeier, Lawyer advertising, Lawyer advertising and solicitation, Lawyer Ethics, Lawyer ethics and social media, Lawyer solicitation rules social media class action, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment