Internet Use Leads To Disciplinary Sanction

The headline you just clicked on is misleading.  And intentionally so.

In this space and at seminars, I’ve noted the profession’s willingness to blame technology for attorney misconduct.  Specifically, our willingness to attribute bad behavior to technology when, in fact, technology did nothing but reveal conduct that was unethical long before it made it to the interwebs.  To wit:

The posts involved lawyers who, respectively,

  • failed to communicate with a client;
  • lied to a court; and,
  • stole money from a youth soccer league,

In none of the three did tech cause or really have much to do with the misconduct.

Anyhow, on Sunday, Professor Bernabe blogged about a disciplinary case in which a lawyer’s use of technology and the internet eventually resulted in a sanction being imposed against the lawyer’s license.  The post is here.

To be clear, Professor Bernabe DID NOT use a misleading headline that attributed a lawyer’s dishonesty to technology.  But it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that, somewhere, someone did. In reality, technology was not the problem.

The facts.

In 2017, a Kansas lawyer reported to the CLE office that he had completed 760 minutes of CLE in a single day.  Specifically, 400 minutes of “live” credit, and 360 minutes of watching online, on-demand CLE courses.

Upon noticing that the lawyer had claimed more than 12 hours of CLE in one day, the Executive Director of the CLE Commission called the lawyer.  The ED asked the lawyer if he had watched the online presentations while sitting in the “live” seminar.  The lawyer answered “no.”  Rather, he told the ED that, while sitting in the “live” seminar, he logged into the online site to print out certificates of attendance.  The ED asked the lawyer to contact the online provider and obtain & produce records that would show the times at which he had logged in & out.

Time to make a long story less long.

In fact, the lawyer watched 360 minutes of online CLE while attending 400 minutes of “live” CLE.  Thus, the Kansas Supreme Court concluded that the lawyer violated the rule that prohibits dishonest, deceit, and misrepresentation by answering “no” when asked if he’d watched the videos while sitting in class.  In September, the Kansas Court publicly censured the lawyer.**

Technology certainly provides more opportunity to get caught.  For example, if, 15 years ago, a had a lawyer reported attending 8 hours of CLE and then returning home to watch 6 more on VHS, nobody would’ve been able to prove that the lawyer didn’t actually watch the VCR that night.  Yet, a false certification as to having done so would have been no less dishonest than the false denial that today’s lawyer made to the ED of the CLE Commission.

Today’s story isn’t about tech or the internet.  It’s about dishonest conduct.  In short, if you show up for a date with someone who listed their hair color as “brown” and their head looks like mine, it’s not the dating site’s fault.

Age group champ baby!


ps: what a difference 30 days makes: running in shorts, short sleeves, and warm sunshine.

** the Court also dinged the lawyer for not knowing that the Kansas CLE rules don’t allow double-dipping.  Watching one CLE while attending another appears to violate the Kansas requirement to view online CLE in a setting suitable for learning.

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