It’s been nearly two years since my last Was That Wrong? column.
The hiatus is of my doing. Alas, since it began, I’ve been humbled by the fact that so many of you regularly share potential entries with me, most under the subject line “Was That Wrong?”. While I like to say that this blog was built on the slogan “competence includes tech competence,” it seems that loyal readers think otherwise. And it’s a loyal reader who alerted me to today’s story.
But first, for those of you new to the column, it features stories of the absurd & outrageous from the world of legal ethics and attorney discipline. My aim is to highlight misconduct that I hope you’ll instinctively avoid without needing me to convene a continuing legal education seminar that cautions you to do so.
The column is inspired by the “Red Dot” episode of Seinfeld. In the episode, George Costanza has sex in his office with a character known only as “the cleaning woman.” His boss finds out. Here’s their ensuing exchange:
(Scene) In the boss’ office.
- Boss: I’m going to get right to the point. It has come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?
- George: Who said that?
- Boss: She did.
- George: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.
- Boss: You’re fired.
- George: Well you didn’t have to say it like that.
A few days ago, a reader tipped me off to the story of a Florida lawyer. The ABA Journal and The Daytona Beach News-Journal covered the lawyer’s disciplinary matter. Someday I’ll get around to creating a YouTube channel and producing episodes of Was That Wrong? When I do, here’s how I envision the script for today’s story:
- Supreme Court: We’ll get right to the point. It’s come to our attention that you used client funds for personal expenses.
- Lawyer: Who said that?
- Supreme Court: They did. One is your father-in-law. He entrusted you with $255,000. It’s also come to our attention that you used your client trust account as a business account to run your strip club.
- Lawyer: No bank would let me open a checking account for the strip club!
- Supreme Court: (silence, staring.)
- Lawyer: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.
- Supreme Court: Disbarred!
- Lawyer: Well you didn’t have to say it like that.
Here’s a list of previous Was That Wrong? posts:
- Conspiring with police to have your paralegal set up opposing counsel for a DUI
- Bringing a gun to your disbarment hearing
- Sexting a Client
- Defrauding Investors, with Client Funds as Collateral
- Outrageous Falsehoods on a Resume
- Judge Orders Attorney Handcuffed to Jury Box
- Swearing at a Judge who Overrules Your Objection
- Forging Judges’ Signatures
- Representing Plaintiff & Defendant . . . and sleeping with Defendant
- Prosecutor Snoops on Conversations between Defendant & Defense Counsel
- Smuggling toothbrushes and pepper spray to an incarcerated client
- Framing a volunteer at your kid’s elementary school for drug possession
- Forging Wiretap Orders to Spy on a Romantic Rival
- Cannabis (In)Competence
- Inexplicable Incompetence and a Thomas Jefferson Costume