I watched Logan Lucky last month. I loved it but am not sure whether it’s a caper or a heist. I was leaning towards “heist,” but then I found this review. If a source such as The Atlantic considers it a caper, who am I to disagree?
Anyhow, over their careers, the Logan brothers have developed the “Top Ten Rules For Robbing Banks.” Here’s a still from the movie:
The 10th is relevant to today’s post. If the picture is too small, #10 is “Hang Up And Know When To Walk Away.”
Keep that in mind as you read on.
When it comes to bizarre attorney discipline cases, I’ve investigated, prosecuted, and blogged about my fair share. This one is in a category of its own. A category that I don’t know what to name or how to describe.
The case involved two counts. The first paragraph related to Count I might make you wonder if there’s a typo.
- “In 1991, Joseph Duplessis, Sr. and his three brothers hired respondent to handle an employment discrimination lawsuit against their employer. According to Mr. Duplessis, their legal matter appeared to be progressing until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Thereafter, respondent failed to return Mr. Duplessis’ telephone calls or otherwise keep him informed of the status of the case. When respondent did speak to Mr. Duplessis, she offered what he considered to be excuses as to why the case had not progressed. In 2011, respondent sent discovery requests to the defendant but received no response. She never confirmed that the defendant was served with the discovery requests and never filed a motion to compel the defendant to respond.”
There’s no typo. The lawyer served the discovery requests twenty years after being retained. Alas, that didn’t get the matter back on track. Thus, in 2015, the client filed a disciplinary complaint against the lawyer. Formal disciplinary proceedings followed.
Count II is as strange. It alleges that the lawyer neglected another client’s matter for 20 years. If I’m reading the opinion correctly, it appears as the second client’s timeline was:
- 1994: hired lawyer
- 1995: lawyer filed lawsuits on client’s behalf in state & federal court
- 1995: federal case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction
- 1997: lawyer served discovery requests in state court action
- 1998: lawyer filed a motion to set the matter for trial
- 2002: client filed a disciplinary complaint against lawyer
- 2004: lawyer was sanctioned by Louisiana disciplinary authorities
- 2004: client continued to retain lawyer
- 2012: client filed another disciplinary complaint against lawyer
- 2016: lawyer filed a motion to compel responses to discovery requests served in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013. It was the first motion filed, by either party since lawyer’s 1998 motion to set the matter for trial.
As I blogged in June, a lawyer has a duty to provide a client with candid legal advice. The duty includes giving the client legal advice that the client does not want to receive. Or, as stated in Comment  to V.R.Pr.C. 2.1:
- “A client is entitled to straightforward advice representing the lawyer’s honest assessment. Legal advice often involves unpleasant facts and alternatives that a client may be disinclined to confront. In presenting advice, a lawyer endeavors to sustain a client’s morale and may put advice in as acceptable a form as honesty permits. However, a lawyer should not be deterred from giving candid legal advice by the prospect that the advice will be unpalatable to the client.”
In the opinion suspending the lawyer, the Louisiana Supreme Court wrote:
- “We do not minimize the significance of the delay in respondent’s resolution of the two legal matters at issue, which resulted in harm to her clients. Nevertheless, we recognize that respondent did not cause her clients to lose a right or remedy in their legal matters.”
In other words, it appears that neither of the lawyer’s clients had much of a case. Among other factors, this mitigated against a longer suspension.
I don’t know how it’s possible that the lawyer’s clients’ cases languished for so long. Therefore, I will not comment on the fact that they did. Rather, the neglect aside, I’ll reemphasize June’s post on V.R.Pr.C. 2.1.
The duty to render candid legal advice includes informing a client of their prospects. Might the client fire you upon receiving bad news? Yes. But at least you won’t end up starring in a caper that ends with your law license suspended.
Hang up and know when to walk away.
[i] Here’s to bald bar counsels!