A few days ago, I posted Negative Review? What NOT to do. The post focused on schemes to sue stooge defendants in order to obtain court orders that require negative online reviews to be scrubbed.
Well, here’s another example of what not to do in response to a negative online review. As a bonus, it includes a tip on what not to do in response to a disciplinary investigation.
Lance Eldon Isaac is an attorney in Colorado. In 2013, T.S. retained Isaac in a criminal matter. T.S. was not satisfied with the representation and posted a negative review on Avvo.Com. He also created a website to express his dissatisfaction with Isaac. The negative review found its way to Google Plus, ripoffreport.com, and other websites.
Shortly after T.S.’s posts, another former client of Isaac’s, D, posted a negative online review. It also found its way to Google Plus.
In 2014, Isaac hired a search engine optimization consultant. The consultant found the reviews and recommended that Isaac respond. He did.
In response to T.S., Isaac posted:
- ‘[T.S.] actually retained me twice, on the same case, in which he was charged
with felony theft. He had been referred, to me, by a colleague, who is aformer judge, deputy district attorney, mediator and private practitioner.After terminating my services, the first time, because I was unable to force theprosecutor to do his bidding, he came to realize that no lawyer has a magicwand, and rehired me on the case. As he had, before my first withdrawal,[T.S.] became nothing but abusive, demanding, insulting and offensive, and Idecided to terminate my representation, as the result of his conduct. In orderto earn my $3,500.00 disposition fee, I telephoned the district attorney, onnumerous occasions but, as i s common, among many prosecutors, thedeputies never actually answered my call, and almost never returned it. It wasnecessary to travel outside the Denver metropolitan area, multiple times, forhearings and other court proceedings. I litigated the motion that [T.S.]insisted that I file, i.e. to dismiss, for destruction of evidence, andprosecutorial misconduct. He was not even able to substantiate the allegedfacts that he presented to me, in my struggle to prevail, upon the motion. Aswith all ethical lawyers, it is inherently inimical, to me, to engage in conduct sobase as calling either my clients, or their spouses, ‘names.’ As for the practiceof losing one’s temper, I commend the reader to [T.S.’s] own “review,” whichconstitutes nothing but defamation.”
People v. Isaac, pp. 3-4.
In response to D, Isaac posted:
“I never appeared late, for any court appearance, on behalf of [D.], and was always fully prepared, to conduct the business at hand. Logic and common sense dictate that, if I were to attempt to leave a hearing before the court had concluded it, the judge would, as it were, ‘have my head.’ No such thing occurred. Likewise, it is nonsensical that a lawyer would refuse to use relevant evidence helpful to his client, especially if it is ‘handed to him.’ [D.] cannot corroborate anything that she claims, because it did not happen. For all of the many hours that I spent, in vigorous defense of her, against felony assault,felony eluding of police, and driving under the influence of alcohol, [D.] paid me, with a $4,000.00 insufficient-funds check. She then committed two criminal offenses, by fabricating ‘affidavits,’ which were, purportedly, executed by former (and current) relatives, forging their signatures to them, then ‘notarizing’ the forged signatures, when she was no longercommissioned, as a notary public. [D.’s] dishonest, fraudulent and criminalconduct speak for themselves”
People v. Isaac, p. 4.
Isaac’s testimony at the disciplinary hearing did not help his cause. From page 8 of the decision, with “People” referring to the disciplinary prosecutor’s office:
- “Though Respondent acknowledged he had violated Colo. RPC 1.6, he also inveighed against T.S. and D., as well as the People, as ‘responsible for bringing me to
where I am today.’ As regards his former clients, he remarked, ‘the universe brings these people to me. This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to sociopaths and psychopaths. I’ve represented several of them in my career.’ Concerningthe People, he expressed outrage that they had initiated the investigation after going onto the web and finding his posts. He ruminated that it was ‘not just unseemly’ that the People had done so, but in fact ‘very reminiscent of Stalinist Russia, it’s reminiscent of Nazi Germany. It’s where we go out looking: where can we find a Jew? where can we find a homosexual? where can we find somebody to do something to?’ He also complained that ‘as a result of what has happened on the internet my business has plummeted. Once people start putting this kind of stuff out there about you it can end the whole game, and that’s basically what’s happened to me,’ he said.”
A hearing board concluded that Isaac’s responses to the negative online reviews violated Rule 1.6 by improperly disclosing information relating to his representation of T.S. and D. The board rejected Isaac’s argument that the “self-defense” exception in Colorado’s version of V.R.Pr.C. 1.6(c)(3) allowed him to respond to the negative reviews. The board suspended his law license for 6 months.
H/T and thank you Samson Habte at Bloomberg ABA/BNA Lawyers Manual of Professional Conduct for blogging about this.