Five for Friday #143

Welcome to Friday!

Now, before I get to the quiz, I’m compelled to share the story of a trial that raises concerns as to the ethics of the lawyers & judges involved.

Doris hired Kris to work at a store that she, Doris, managed.  Kris proved popular with the customers and helped to increase sales.  Yet, Kris was not popular with some of the store’s executives.  They were especially irked that he’d referred a customer to a competing store.  They also doubted that he was who he claimed to be.

Management ordered Kris to meet with the company psychologist, Dr. Sawyer. The meeting did not go well for Kris.  He hit the psychologist with a cane.  Claiming assault and feigning an injury more severe than it was, Dr. Sawyer arranged to have Kris detained in a psychiatric unit.

Involuntary commitment proceedings ensued.  The prosecutor’s case focused on the allegation that Kris’s claim as to his identity was so irrational as to warrant commitment.  The case relied almost entirely on two things: (1) Kris’s claim that he was who he claimed to be; and (2) testimony from Doris’s 6-year old daughter Susan that included a critical hearsay statement made by none other than the prosecutor.

Fred represented Kris. Fred liked Kris, and believed in him, but also had a crush on Doris.  Fred took the case, in part, to spend more time with Doris.

For a while, it appeared as if Kris would be committed.  Then, two things turned the case.

First, Fred helped to organize a scheme by which officials from the U.S. Postal Service agreed to help to influence the judge, the Honorable Henry X. Harper. Postal officials delivered an incredible number of letters from those who believed in Kris to chambers, along with a message that the post office considered Kris to be who he claimed to be.

Second, a local politician met ex parte with Judge Harper and informed him his career would be over if he ordered Kris to be committed.

Judge Harper got the message loud & clear.  He ruled that a state court had no business challenging the federal government (the post office’s) conclusion that Kris was who he claimed to be.  Thus, Kris was not committed.

Sounds good, right? Well, yes, if you’re willing to ignore potential violations of, among other rules:

  • Rule 3.1 – meritorious claims
  • Rule 3.7 – lawyer as witness
  • Rule 3.8 – special responsibilities of a prosecutor
  • Rule 1.7 – conflict of interest
  • Rule 3.5(a) – influencing the judge by means prohibited by law
  • many of the section of Rule 8.4
  • a host of the canons of judicial conduct

Some of you have probably figured out who Kris claimed to be.

For those of you haven’t, Kris claimed to be Santa Claus.  And this isn’t a real-life case: it’s the plot from Miracle on 34th Street.

Thank you Bridget Asay!

See the source image

Onto the quiz!


  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text/phone/email-a-friend.
  • Exception – but one that is loosely enforced – #5 (“loosely” = “aspirational”)
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please don’t use the “comment” feature to post your answers
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Please consider sharing the quiz on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

You represent George.  He is concerned that his elderly father has been acting irrational and has come to you for advice on a potential involuntary guardianship.  George informs you that he’s been worried for months, but that the last straw was when his father challenged him to a fight during the “feats of strength” aspect of the family’s recent holiday celebration.

For now, the information relating to your representation of George is protected by Rule 1.6.  Including the holiday.  But in order to protect it, you have to know what it is.  What holiday were George and his father celebrating?

Question 2

Lawyer represents Client.  Client is charged with kidnapping Clarice and assaulting a gallant suitor who attempted to free her.  Client is also charged with the felony murder of one Yukon Cornelius.  Yukon is presumed dead.  He disappeared off a cliff during the daring rescue mission of Clarice and her suitor that Yukon carried out with an heretofore incompetent dentist.

But lo’ and behold, the prosecutor learns that Yukon is alive and well!  As required by Rule 3.8(d), prosecutor notifies Lawyer and, then, as required by Rule 3.1, dismisses the felony murder charge.

Lawyer works diligently to convince prosecutor to drop the remaining charges.  After all, despite a monstrous reputation, Client is winning in the court of public opinion.  If only because Client’s physical stature comes in handy during the holidays.

Who is Lawyer’s client?

Question 3

Attorney is a public defender.  She’s been assigned to represent Willie T. Stokes.  Willie is a con man. He and a co-defendant, Marcus “Elf” Skidmore, have been charged with staging elaborate robberies of department stores the past several Christmas Eves.

Marcus asks Attorney to represent him too.  Attorney is mindful of Comments 29-33 to Rule 1.7: the comments that discuss the ethics of “common representation.”

Yet, just as she starts to re-read the comments, Attorney wakes up. It was all a dream!  She doesn’t really represent Willie T. Stokes, he’s a fictional character!

What movie must Attorney have watched before she fell asleep?

Question 4

One of my favorite unethical fictional lawyers is Barry Zuckerkorn.  He’s the Bluth family’s incompetent lawyer in Arrested Development. Zuckerkorn is played by Henry Winkler who, of course, also played Arthur Fonzarelli in Happy Days.

Speaking of Fonzie, there’s a well-known holiday song that includes the follow lyrics:

Guess who eats together at the Carnegie Deli

Bowzer fro Sha Na Na and Arthur Fonzarelli”

Name the song.

Question 5

Michael consults Attorney for advice. Michael wants to know whether he has any recourse against employees who, in Michael’s opinion, did not buy sufficiently nice gifts for the office’s “Secret Santa” party, a party that Michael turned into a “Yankee Swap” after receiving an oven mitt from his secret santa.  Michael complains that the gift he received was cheap compared to the one he bought.  The one he bought cost $400 and was intended to Ryan.

Mindful of my advice that a good way to avoid disciplinary complaints is to manage client expectations, Attorney candidly tells Michael that he has no claim. The rules of the Yankee Swap were clear: spend no more $20.  Michael assumed the risk by spending more.


Part 1:  What did Michael buy?

Part 2:  Who ended up with the $400 item that Michael intended for Ryan?







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