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A Sanction That’s Deserved

by Carolyn Elefant on January 25, 2005 · 8 comments

in Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Mistakes/What NOT To Do

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As many of my readers know, I often find that the sanctions meted out by bar disciplinary committees to be either redundant or heavy-handed, such as punishing an attorney where he’s already been ordered to pay monetary sanctions by the court or sactioning an attorney for failing to apologize for an overly harsh criticism of a judge.  But here’s a sanction that actually find myself in agreement with – a thirty day suspension not simply for missing a court date, but for lying about it repeatedly.  See  Partner Suspended for 30 Days for Lying About Missing Court Date, New York Lawyer (January 25, 2005).

Personally, one of my biggest peeves is lawyers who lie.  Partly because lying about missing a deadline or not paying a bill reflects an abrogation of responsibility that simply does not befit a professional.  And partly because lying sets the worst possible example for our clients.  I can live with lawyers who are, occasionally rude to judges (who after all, may deserve it) or even lawyers who don’t return phone calls to clients who pester them several times a day or don’t pay bills on time.  But there’s simply no excuse for lying – to the court or to a client.  And that’s why we shouldn’t tolerate those lawyers who do.

  • http://temp.starklawlibrary.org/blog/archive/2005_01.html#003081 Stark County Law Library Blawg

    “A Sanction That’s Deserved”

    Posted by Carolyn Elefant: ?s many of my readers know, I often find that the sanctions meted out by bar

  • http://temp.starklawlibrary.org/blog/archive/2005_01.html#003081 Stark County Law Library Blawg

    “A Sanction That’s Deserved”

    Posted by Carolyn Elefant: ?s many of my readers know, I often find that the sanctions meted out by bar

  • http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2005/01/lies_and_the_ly.html Legal Blog Watch

    LIES AND THE LYING LAWYERS WHO DESERVE SANCTIONS

    Carolyn Elefant’s got a rant on sanctions and suspensions. And I like it:

  • http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2005/01/lies_and_the_ly.html Legal Blog Watch

    LIES AND THE LYING LAWYERS WHO DESERVE SANCTIONS

    Carolyn Elefant’s got a rant on sanctions and suspensions. And I like it:

  • Peter S. Chamberlain

    AMEN!
    Lying, to clients,prospective clients, colleagues, judges and juries, and others, is the quintessential unforgivable lawyer ethical violation, much of what leads too many members of the public to spell “lawyer” “L I A R.”
    I think the best thing the state bars and bar associations can do for the reality and the image of the legal profession, rather than spending a lot of money on spin doctor PR people schooled in what one grad student in marketing told me was “slective telling,” would be to establish a Zero Tolerance for Lias and the Lying Liar Lawyers who Tell Them, to rip off a phrase from someone with whom I disagree otherwise, and not to hesitate ot use all available social, political, court, and Bar sanctions against them. I suspect that the first time a half-dozen lawyers, including one “Big Firm Boy,” are publicly reprimanded for lying including deceptive omissions, you might see some improvement.
    Texas has a rule that all agreements between counsel have to be in writing and signed. I don’t dare tell you the name, and present judicial office held by, a lawyer who once told me “Pete, old buddy, I know you can’t drive, we have a runner and will file this transcript with the Fort Worth Court of Appeals, didn’t file it, waited until the time had run, and filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the ground that I had faield to do so. When I had the obligatory telephone coference with him, he said “Pete, I hope through this you will come to know the Lord.” One of his senior partners apparently called the Court of Appeals, because that transcript suddenly got filed as of a timely date, but I’m not the only lawyeror judge who knows the truth. And lawyers wonder why I always insist on a quick hand-written memo even if we agree to meet to confer. I normally confirmed all such telephone and other oral agreements and representations by letter when practical; one lawyer became irate and said I had —-ed him” by sending such a letter.
    Lawyers and cops swore in when we got licensed. We shouldn’t have to be formally placed under oath, nor have our statements transcribed verbatim, to be held accountable for not telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
    Any lawyer who can’t, and doesn’t, clearly distinguish between what he represents to be true upon his own knowledge and credibility, and what he has been told or thinks is true, should have flunked out of law school.
    Between three terms on the Dallas Bar Ethics Advisory Opinions Committee and to see if I or any of my friends or co-counsel were in it, I have always tended to read the disciplinary news. I have seen, and personally known, many cases where the State Bar of Texas, and others, have overreacted to minor lapses, like not serving interrogatories with a collection suit (which violates no standard I can find) that got one of the best sole practictioners I know a private reprimand at a time when the Bar should have come alongside and supported her generally as well as about that, etc., and swallowed camels like lying, stealing, abusing children and vulnerable witnesses in court, or at home. Unfortunately, they publish most of these only by rule number and subsection, making one go check most to be sure what they were,and I could be wrong on this, but, in 35 years of practice and 5 of retiement, I have seen exactly one lawyer, a very honest client of mine, identified as being sanctioned for actually or allegedly lying to a court, and only to a client for telling them their suit had been filed and letting the statute run.
    When I was a young lawyer in Dallas in the sixties, there was one, just one, of the major firms that everyoody knew you meant if you said you were dealing with The Law Firm of Lie, Cheat & Renege, a term I coined at a bar lunch CLE program. Now you would have to specify which one, from solo shops like mine was to some of the biggest AV firms.
    Texas was one of the last states to adopt a ban on lawyers recording conversations with clients, opposing counsel, etc. I respectfully disagree.

  • Peter S. Chamberlain

    AMEN!
    Lying, to clients,prospective clients, colleagues, judges and juries, and others, is the quintessential unforgivable lawyer ethical violation, much of what leads too many members of the public to spell “lawyer” “L I A R.”
    I think the best thing the state bars and bar associations can do for the reality and the image of the legal profession, rather than spending a lot of money on spin doctor PR people schooled in what one grad student in marketing told me was “slective telling,” would be to establish a Zero Tolerance for Lias and the Lying Liar Lawyers who Tell Them, to rip off a phrase from someone with whom I disagree otherwise, and not to hesitate ot use all available social, political, court, and Bar sanctions against them. I suspect that the first time a half-dozen lawyers, including one “Big Firm Boy,” are publicly reprimanded for lying including deceptive omissions, you might see some improvement.
    Texas has a rule that all agreements between counsel have to be in writing and signed. I don’t dare tell you the name, and present judicial office held by, a lawyer who once told me “Pete, old buddy, I know you can’t drive, we have a runner and will file this transcript with the Fort Worth Court of Appeals, didn’t file it, waited until the time had run, and filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the ground that I had faield to do so. When I had the obligatory telephone coference with him, he said “Pete, I hope through this you will come to know the Lord.” One of his senior partners apparently called the Court of Appeals, because that transcript suddenly got filed as of a timely date, but I’m not the only lawyeror judge who knows the truth. And lawyers wonder why I always insist on a quick hand-written memo even if we agree to meet to confer. I normally confirmed all such telephone and other oral agreements and representations by letter when practical; one lawyer became irate and said I had —-ed him” by sending such a letter.
    Lawyers and cops swore in when we got licensed. We shouldn’t have to be formally placed under oath, nor have our statements transcribed verbatim, to be held accountable for not telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
    Any lawyer who can’t, and doesn’t, clearly distinguish between what he represents to be true upon his own knowledge and credibility, and what he has been told or thinks is true, should have flunked out of law school.
    Between three terms on the Dallas Bar Ethics Advisory Opinions Committee and to see if I or any of my friends or co-counsel were in it, I have always tended to read the disciplinary news. I have seen, and personally known, many cases where the State Bar of Texas, and others, have overreacted to minor lapses, like not serving interrogatories with a collection suit (which violates no standard I can find) that got one of the best sole practictioners I know a private reprimand at a time when the Bar should have come alongside and supported her generally as well as about that, etc., and swallowed camels like lying, stealing, abusing children and vulnerable witnesses in court, or at home. Unfortunately, they publish most of these only by rule number and subsection, making one go check most to be sure what they were,and I could be wrong on this, but, in 35 years of practice and 5 of retiement, I have seen exactly one lawyer, a very honest client of mine, identified as being sanctioned for actually or allegedly lying to a court, and only to a client for telling them their suit had been filed and letting the statute run.
    When I was a young lawyer in Dallas in the sixties, there was one, just one, of the major firms that everyoody knew you meant if you said you were dealing with The Law Firm of Lie, Cheat & Renege, a term I coined at a bar lunch CLE program. Now you would have to specify which one, from solo shops like mine was to some of the biggest AV firms.
    Texas was one of the last states to adopt a ban on lawyers recording conversations with clients, opposing counsel, etc. I respectfully disagree.

  • Jane

    Amen!
    I have wittnessed this injustice for many years as a respondent&/or petitioner during a 8yr + divorce proceeding. I have become physically ill on several occasions as I wittnessed officers of the court lie to Judges and having full knowledge the Judges knew the officer was lying and yet, no consequences from the bench!!???
    As a client, I was instructed several times to “bend the truth”. When I refused, my attorney became hostile with me.
    Ethics, particulary in family law/matrimonial law, wherein children are involved require the most honorable.
    It is difficult to address any officer of the court with the title “Honorable” when you wittness unethical practice.

  • Jane

    Amen!
    I have wittnessed this injustice for many years as a respondent&/or petitioner during a 8yr + divorce proceeding. I have become physically ill on several occasions as I wittnessed officers of the court lie to Judges and having full knowledge the Judges knew the officer was lying and yet, no consequences from the bench!!???
    As a client, I was instructed several times to “bend the truth”. When I refused, my attorney became hostile with me.
    Ethics, particulary in family law/matrimonial law, wherein children are involved require the most honorable.
    It is difficult to address any officer of the court with the title “Honorable” when you wittness unethical practice.

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