Five for Friday #250

Welcome to Friday, April, and the 250th #fiveforfriday legal ethics quiz!

the-quiz

For those of you thinking that today’s introduction will mark the first mention of the quiz’s 250th anniversary, not so fast my friends!  I’m exceedingly grateful to Chief Justice Reiber, Teri Corsones, and the esteemed Bob Fletcher for their thoughtful recognition of the milestone at last week’s VBA Mid-Year meeting.  Here’s a picture of the Yeti that the Chief Justice and President Fletcher presented to me after a brief interlude scripted by Teri that included an actual on-the-spot #fiveforfriday quiz:

Yeti

Their thoughtfulness stands in contrast to my own and is relevant to today’s introduction.

As most know, the quiz is usually preceded by a musing that I try to connect to the date or to the quiz number.  Check out the picture.  Long ago, the Chief Justice and the VBA leadership figured out that quiz 250 might fall on the 25th.   How fortuitous!! What better way to tie the intro to the date AND the quiz number?!?!

If only the blogger was as thoughtful and aware as others.

Instead, and for reasons that I can no longer remember, but that I assume can be summed up as “too lazy,” I didn’t post a quiz on March 11.  As such, 250 was pushed beyond the 25th.

Alas, all is not lost!

This is not a rhetorical question: who would miss such a golden opportunity to align a milestone quiz number with the date?  I mean, it was there for the taking!  It’s not like I would’ve had to sneakily skip/repeat a number or manipulate the calendar by taking multiple weeks off.

So, back to the question, who would be so oblivious???

A fool, that’s who.  Which makes it altogether appropriate that instead of delivering the 250th on the 25th,  I’m posting it on April 1.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Seriously, blogs don’t work unless people read them.  So, to anyone who has read even a single quiz, thank you!

Moreover, as I’ve noted before, the Friday posts have allowed me to forge connections with many who I wouldn’t have otherwise. I appreciate each of you and value our connections more than you know.

Thank you for your support as I’ve pursued what I initially worried was but foolish idea that a weekly legal ethics quiz might stand a chance.

Onto the quiz!

Rules

  •  Open book, open search engine, text-a-friend.
  • Exception:  Question 5.  We try to play that one honest.
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Share on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

Attorney called me with an inquiry.  My response included this statement: “Unless the deposit was an instrument that is listed among the exceptions, the general rule is that you can’t unless you have collected funds.”

Can’t what?

Question 2

I often refer to the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics: competence, communication, confidentiality, conflicts, candor, commingling, and civility. I use them to urge lawyers to consider concepts instead of trying to memorize the rules.

Similarly, Professor Bernabe, a regular member of the #fiveforfriday Honor Roll, suggests to the students in his professional responsibility class that they associate the principles encapsulated by the Rules of Professional Conduct with the grades that they don’t want to receive for the class.

As we highlighted at last week’s VBA meeting, a comment to one of the rules states that “perhaps no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination.”  The comment does not appear in one of the “C” rules.  Rather, it’s in a rule that is one of Professor Bernabe’s “bad grades.”

Which rule/duty/principle is associated with procrastination and can be remembered by thinking of “bad grades?”

Question 3

I’m not a fan of threats to file disciplinary complaints against opposing counsel.  In fact, several jurisdictions take the position that it’s a rules violation to threaten another lawyer with a disciplinary complaint.

In most of those jurisdictions, which rule does the conduct violate? The rule that:

  • A.  Requires fairness to opposing counsel and parties.
  • B.  Requires respect for the rights of third persons.
  • C.  Prohibits conflicts of interest.
  • D.  Prohibits presenting, participating in presenting, or threatening to present criminal charges to obtain an advantage in a civil case.

Question 4

There’s a rule that prohibits a lawyer from counseling or assisting a client to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.  Several years ago, Vermont added a comment to clarify that a lawyer may assist and advise clients on issues related to the validity, scope, and meaning of the statutes, rules, and regulations that apply to a specific product/industry.  The comment was added for several reasons, including the fact that the ethics rule draws no distinction between state and federal law.

What product/industry?

Question 5

 Consistent with a sentiment expressed in the introduction.

In My Cousin Vinny, Vinny’s opening statement was brief.  In fact, at 10 words, it might be the shortest opening statement in the history of opening statements. Here’s what followed:

  • Prosecution: Objection, your Honor. Counsel’s entire opening statement is argument.
  • Judge Haller: Objection sustained. The entire opening statement, with the exception of “ ________ ________” will be stricken from the record. The jury will please disregard Counselor’s entire opening statement. And you, Mr. Gambini, you will not use that kind of language in my court. Do you understand me?
  • Vinny: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Of the already brief opening statement, what are the only two words that were not stricken from the record?

Bonus:  what had Vinny done during the prosecution’s opening statement that isn’t exactly consistent with the duties that lawyers owe to their clients?

Monday Answers #245: the Sac-O-Suds!

Happy Monday morning!

Friday’s questions are here.  The answers follow today’s Honor Roll.

Honor Roll

  • Matt Anderson, Pratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin & White
  • Evan Barquist, Montroll Oettinger & Barquist
  • Penny Benelli, Dakin & Benelli
  • Andrew Delaney, Martin Delaney & Ricci
  • Heather Devine, Tarrant Gillies Shems
  • Bob Fletcher, Stitzel Page & Fletcher; President, Vermont Bar Association,
  • Bob Grundstein
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • Deb Kirchwey, Law Office of Deborah Kirchwey
  • Jack McCullough, Project Director, Mental Health Law Project, Vermont Legal Aid
  • Jeffrey Messina, Messina Law
  • Hal Miller, First American Title Insurance, Hawaii Agency State Counsel
  • Herb Ogden, Esq.
  • Keith RobertsDarby Kolter & Roberts
  • Brice Simon, Breton & Simon
  • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Sheehey Furlong & Behm
  • Jason Warfield, J.D.

answers

Question 1

 The following are exceptions to a particular rule.

  • to establish a claim or defense in a controversy between the lawyer and client;
  • to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved; or,
  • to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client.

The rule addresses one of the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics.  Which one?

CONFIDENTIALITY.  See, V.R.Pr.C. 1.6.  The listed exceptions are in paragraph (c)(3), the so called “self-defense” exception.

 Question 2

Fill in the blank.

A comment to one of the conflicts rules states that “continued common representation will almost always be inadequate if one client _________________.”

  • A.  pays a higher percentage of the lawyer’s fee than the other client.
  • B.  is also a former client, but in an unrelated matter.
  • C.  is the lawyer’s main contact on matters related to the representation.
  • D.  asks the lawyer not to disclose to the other client information relevant to the common representation.  See, V.R.Pr.C. 1.7, Cmt. [31].

 Question 3.

Notwithstanding a conflict of interest, a lawyer may represent a client if

  • A. The lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client and the representation is not prohibited by law.
  • B.  The representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal.
  • C.  Each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
  • D.  A, B, and C.  These are the elements set out in Rule 1.7(b).

Question 4

Lawyer called with an inquiry. I listened, then responded:

  • “There’s no rule that specifically prohibits it. But the fee must be reasonable, you must comply with the rule on business transactions with a client, and you should consider whether it would create a personal interest that would materially limit your ability to provide the client with competent and candid legal advice.”

Given my response, it’s most like that Lawyer called to ask about:

  • A.  a contingent fee.
  • B.  accepting an ownership interest in a client’s business as payment for legal fees.
  • C.  representing a family member.
  • D.  marrying a client.

Karen Rubin is a lawyer (and friend of this blog) who writes for The Law for Lawyers Today. Last year, Karen posted Take stock instead of legal fees? Take a hard look and mind the ethics rules.

Question 5

In the introduction, I mentioned something that I saw on Twitter the other day.  Another thing that I saw on Twitter this week was this:

I agree!

Here’s today’s question:

Vinny’s clients were charged with robbing and shooting a store clerk.  However, when they were arrested, they thought it was for accidentally shoplifting.  While at the store, Vinny’s cousin didn’t pay for an item he had put in his pocket because his hands were full.

What was the item?   A can of tuna.

Bonus: what’s the name of the store?  Sac-O-Suds

Sac O Suds

Five for Friday #245: Snow Days

Welcome to Friday and the 245th legal ethics quiz.

Around Vermont, today is the day that school-aged me loved more than any other.  A day within the academic calendar that enjoys romanticized status.

The snow day.

I’m too old to remember what we did on snow days.  I tell myself that the First Brother and our friends grabbed our red plastic sleds (mine had yellow handles) and bravely trudged through the storm to our favorite sliding spots.  Yes, we call it “sliding.”

One such spot was Blueberry Hill.  At least that’s what the kids who lived in the neighborhoods off Williston Road called it.  I doubt that name appears on any official map or record.  In my memory, it was a treacherous hill that demanded great bravery.  There was a sharp right turn about halfway down.  Take it too wide and you’d slam into a tree, cut it too tight and you’d fall off a cliff into a ravine.  Even among those who properly navigated the corner, only the most courageous steered towards the jump that older kids built had into the run – a jump that, if taken, resulted in “legend” status the following day in the cafeteria.

If we could visit Blueberry Hill today, we’d probably laugh at how small – and not steep – it seems in comparison to the mountain of our memories.  Alas, there’s no longer any sliding there.  Like Joni Mitchell sang, they paved our wintry paradise and put up a condominium complex.  And while I’m suspect that the kids who live in our old neighborhoods have found a hill to conquer, I’m convinced that they’ll never know the best part of our experience: the way that we learned it was a snow day.

Scrolling through Twitter last night, I saw this:

Snow Day

It’s time-stamped 6:33 PM.  I’m by no means criticizing the announcement or the many like it posted by other school districts. Advance notice is a good thing, especially for parents who need to plan.  Alas, I feel for the kids who will never know the experience of waking up early, turning on the radio, and waiting to learn whether your school was on the list of closings.

For us, the anticipation was intense.  Schools were called alphabetically, and we lived in South Burlington.  Sure, there were signs.  If Burlington schools were closed, our hopes would rise as there’s no way we’d be open if they’re closed!  Or, conversely, if Essex or Jericho schools weren’t announced, our spirits would sink, knowing that if they’re open, we will be too.  Still, we never knew until we knew.

While I don’t remember the exact list, I remember it feeling like the radio announcer was listing the Rs in slow motion . . .

  • “Randolph High School . . . Richford High School . . . Richmond Elementary . . . “

Oh, to be so young and carefree that our whole lives turned on what came next!

Would it be the soul-crushing “Stowe Middle and High School?”  Or the four greatest words in the history of snow days? “

“All South Burlington Schools.”

Maybe the anticipation I remember can be replicated by constantly refreshing the school district’s Twitter feed.  Or maybe hopes rise & fall with the results spit out by the Snow Day Calculator.  Still, I’ll always smile when I reminisce about those winter mornings huddled around the radio.

Onto the quiz!

the-quiz

Rules

  •  Open book, open search engine, text-a-friend.
  • Exception:  Question 5.  We try to play that one honest.
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Share on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

Here are some exceptions to one of the rules:

  • to establish a claim or defense in a controversy between the lawyer and client;
  • to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved; or,
  • to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client.

The rule addresses one of the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics.  Which one?

 Question 2

Fill in the blank.

A comment to one of the conflicts rules states that “continued common representation will almost always be inadequate if one client _________________.”

  • A.  pays a higher percentage of the lawyer’s fee than the other client.
  • B.  is also a former client, but in an unrelated matter.
  • C.  is the lawyer’s main contact on matters related to the representation.
  • D.  asks the lawyer not to disclose to the other client information relevant to the common representation.

Question 3.

Notwithstanding a conflict of interest, a lawyer may represent a client if

  • A. The lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client and the representation is not prohibited by law.
  • B.  The representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal.
  • C.  Each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
  • D.  A, B, and C.

Question 4

Lawyer called with an inquiry. I listened, then responded:

  • “There’s no rule that specifically prohibits it. But the fee must be reasonable, you must comply with the rule on business transactions with a client, and you should consider whether it would create a personal interest that would materially limit your ability to provide the client with competent and candid legal advice.”

Given my response, it’s most like that Lawyer called to ask about:

  • A.  a contingent fee.
  • B.  accepting an ownership interest in a client’s business as payment for legal fees.
  • C.  representing a family member.
  • D.  marrying a client.

Question 5

In the introduction, I mentioned something that I saw on Twitter the other day.  Another thing that I saw on Twitter this week was this:

I agree!

Vinny’s clients were charged with robbing and shooting a store clerk.  However, when they were arrested, they thought it was for accidentally shoplifting.  While at the store, Vinny’s cousin didn’t pay for an item he had put in his pocket because his hands were full.

What was the item?

Bonus: what’s the name of the store?

Ohio lawyer alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with court staff and clients allowed to resign prior to a public disciplinary hearing. How would a similar situation play out in Vermont?

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  I hope your summer is going well.

Today’s goal is to outline a little-known aspect of Vermont’s disciplinary program.   Perhaps I’m wrong to describe it as “little known.”  To test my assumption that it is, I’ll use this scenario:

  1. Disciplinary complaint is filed against Attorney.
  2. Screening Counsel reviews the complaint and refers it to Disciplinary Counsel for investigation.
  3. Screening Counsel’s referral directs Attorney to provide Disciplinary Counsel with a written response to the complaint within 21 days.
  4. Attorney sends Disciplinary Counsel a letter in which Attorney does not respond to the allegations in the complaint. Rather, Attorney writes “I hereby resign my Vermont law license and waive my right to reactivate it.  This ends this matter.  It’s moot. I no longer have a license for you to sanction.”

Does Attorney’s argument hold water?

No.  Attorney is as wrong as was the defense in My Cousin Vinny.

Before I get to Vermont’s rule, why am I even blogging about a lawyer’s attempt to resign while under disciplinary investigation?  Because, as reported by The Legal Profession Blog and Bloomberg Law, the Ohio Supreme Court recently accepted the resignation of an attorney who, according to a complaint filed by Ohio Disciplinary Counsel, had engaged “in inappropriate comments and conduct with female court staff and clients.”   The complaint can be accessed here.  As noted on the Legal Profession Blog, ‘[t]he lengthy charges make for painful reading.”

The disciplinary complaint did not result in a hearing.  Rather, last week, the Ohio Supreme Court granted the attorney’s application for “resignation with disciplinary action pending.”  The opinion is here.

One justice dissented, focusing on the fact that under Ohio’s rules, when the Court approves a request to resign while under disciplinary investigation, most of the details remain confidential.  As such, the proceedings:

  • “are generally enshrouded in a cloud of secrecy that keeps the public, the bench, and the practicing bar ignorant of the reasons for the request to resign with discipline pending. This is problematic, especially when the allegations against an attorney describe a disturbing pattern of predatory behavior toward a vulnerable population.” (internal citation omitted.)

The dissenting justice acknowledged that the result left the attorney ineligible to practice law.  However, the justice added:

  • “But I do not think that this court should favor a process that is quick over a process that is designed to obtain truth and dispense justice that more effectively protects the public. The disciplinary proceedings governed by this court may provide the victims, the public, and [the attorney] with much-needed transparency about the entire situation. While the alleged victims would bear the heavy burden of testifying before a hearing panel, I believe that they should at least have the opportunity to have their voices heard by the public and by this court. The public should know what this court and the numerous volunteers and employees participating in this court’s disciplinary process are doing to keep the public safe from attorneys who are alleged to have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct in perturbing manners. And at least in the disciplinary process, this court has the opportunity to provide help to the attorney should an addiction or other issue be the root cause of the problem. By accepting [the attorney’s] resignation, the court simply washes its hands of the problem without providing any real resolution.”

In Vermont, Supreme Court Administrative Order 9 establishes the Professional Responsibility Program and sets out the rules that govern the disciplinary process.  Rule 23 of A.O. 9 is entitled “Resignation by Attorneys Under Disciplinary Investigation.”  The rule allows an attorney under investigation to resign by affidavit.

Among other things, the affidavit must acknowledge “that the material facts upon which the complaint is predicated are true” and that “the attorney knows that if charges were predicated upon the misconduct under investigation the attorney could not successfully defend against them.”  Rule 23 also allows Disciplinary Counsel to file a statement of facts that supports a finding that the attorney violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. If accepted, the Court enters “an order disbarring the attorney on consent.”

Rule 23(D) is most relevant to today’s post.

  • (D). Disclosure. The order disbarring the attorney on consent as well as the affidavit and statement of facts shall be a matter of public record.”

So, returning to the scenario I posed at the beginning of this post, Attorney would not be able to avoid investigation and public scrutiny by writing to Disciplinary Counsel “I resign and that’s that.”

Unless you’re disciplinary counsel investigating an attorney who attempts to resign, or on the Supreme Court or the Professional Responsibility Board and tasked to review an affidavit by resignation, may this post never be one to which you need to refer for guidance.

Legal Ethics

Civility & Decorum: a courtroom scene.

And….action!

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve blogged or spoken on civility.  I’m sure many are tired of it.

However, I’m equally certain that Vermont’s judges have supported my efforts.  The judge to whom I owe the most thanks for supporting me on this front often uses a saying that captures the heart of my message far more succinctly than I:

“You are free to disagree.  You are not free to be disagreeable.”

Today’s post honors that judge.

The story comes via AL.com and the ABA Journal.  Respectively, the headlines are:

  • “Judge told Alabama defendant ‘I’ll bust your ass’ complaint alleges.”
  • “Judge is accused of threatening to bust butt of traffic defendant, claiming she likes to ‘flim-flam’ people.

Cutting to the chase: the conduct complaint filed against the judge by Alabama’s Judicial Conduct Commission is here.

From the headlines, and the fact that the judge has been charged, I suspect you’ve already reached the same conclusion as I: it is unlikely history will reflect as kindly on this Alabama courtroom scene as it does on those in To Kill a Mockingbird and My Cousin Vinny.

Here’s what happened.

In 2018, Kimberly Farranto’s car was hit while parked at the restaurant where she worked.  The driver fled, but Farranto was able to determine from a credit card receipt that a passenger’s last name was “Price.” She was not able to determine who was driving.

Flash forward to February 2020.

Farranto appeared in court on a charge of driving with a suspended license.  Waiting for her case to be called, she noticed that the judge’s last name was “Price.” Apparently using her cell phone to investigate, she learned that the judge was likely the father of the passenger in the car that hit hers. Once her case was called, Farranto asked the judge if the passenger was his son.  When the judge answered “yes,” Farranto asked the judge to recuse himself.  When asked why, Farranto told the story and explained that she might sue the judge’s son to provide the name of the driver.

In the end, the judge recused himself.  It’s the colloquy along the way that is relevant to this post.  For a full description, read paragraphs 13-24 of the conduct complaint.  Among other things, the complaint alleges:

  • “Judge Price interrupted Ms. Farranto and was very very angry. He screamed at her that, if she went after his son, he would ‘sue her ass.’”

Then,

  • “Continuing in a loud voice, Judge Price responded ‘Oh yeah, I know who you are. You’re the lady who likes to flim-flam people.’”[i]

Later, after being told that Farranto might sue his son:

  • “Judge Price yelled at her threateningly. ‘If you sue my son, I will bust your ass.’ Judge Price’s face was very red.”

As, the “discussion” continued:

  • “Judge Price yelled at Ms. Farranto, ‘You’re a G*d D**n liar.”

It went on from there, with more of the same. Eventually, the judge gave Farranto both the driver’s name and a new court date with a different judge.

I am not aware of a Vermont judge ever reacting like this.  Still, lawyers, let’s use it as a teachable moment.  If this were to happen to you, how should you respond?

The answer: exactly as Ms. Farranto did.

Rule 3.5(d) of the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits discourteous conduct that is degrading or disruptive to a tribunal.  A comment to the rule states that “[a] lawyer may stand firm against abuse by a judge but should avoid reciprocation; the judge’s default is no justification for similar dereliction by an advocate.”

According to the conduct complaint, “[throughout the entire exchange . . . Ms. Farranto did not get upset, raise her voice, or act rudely.”  In other words, it appears that Farranto stood firm without reciprocation or similar dereliction. That is, while she disagreed with the judge’s behavior, Ms. Farranto was not disagreeable in response.

Nor am I aware of any matter in which a Vermont judge presided over a hearing at which a litigant indicated an intent to sue the judge’s child.  Judges, if that happens, here’s a primer on judicial recusal.  I suggest the ABA approach instead of Judge Price’s.  Again, the maxim matters: when it comes to recusal, you may disagree with the request, but you should not be disagreeable in response.

Which brings me to my favorite line in this unfortunate episode.

After Ms. Farranto left the courtroom, Judge Price said to the Chief Magistrate, “Ms. Roberts, I think I might have lost my cool.”

The Chief Magistrate replied, “You think?”

And Scene GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

[i] Until reading this, I did not know what “flim-flam” meant or that it could be a verb.  Per Dictionary.com, when used with an object, “flim-flam” means “to trick, deceive, swindle or cheat.”

Five for Friday #215

Welcome to Friday and the 215th #fiveforfriday legal ethics quiz.

Today’s is a Vanilla Ice intro:  meaning, I’m skipping the intro and going quick to the quiz, to the quiz no fakin.

Oh, but wait!  Speaking of 215, and with the next line of Ice, Ice, Baby in mind, I’d be remiss not to mention Patrick Kennedy.

Not only does he love all things bacon – he once made a bacon-scented candle – Patrick’s birthday is February 15th.  That’s right – 2/15.  So, for readers who enjoy the traditional intro tied to the week’s number, here’s a post that I did in honor my brother’s birthday last year.

Onto the quiz!

Rules

  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text-a-friend.
  • Exception: Question 5. We try to play that one honest.
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply.
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday.
  • Please don’t use the “comment” feature to post your answersPlease consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues.
  • Please consider sharing the quiz social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

 Question 1

It happened again.  So, fill in the blank.

A change to wiring instructions should put a lawyer on alert to a potential _________:

  • A.  conflict of interest.
  • B   situation in which the client is not competent to make informed decisions about the representation.
  • C.  violation of the rule that prohibits unreasonable fees.
  • D.  trust account scam.

Question 2

 Lawyer called with an inquiry.  I answered, “you need to make sure to avoid noisy ______________.”

Given my answer, it’s most likely that Lawyer called to discuss:

  • A.  withdrawal.
  • B.  clients.
  • C.  judges.
  • D.  technology.

Question 3

 I often refer to the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics.  A rule involving one of the Cs includes a comment that reads:

  • “A lawyer should adopt reasonable procedures, appropriate for the size and type of firm and practice, to determine in both litigation and non-litigation matters the persons and issues involved.  Ignorance caused by a failure to institute such procedures will not excuse a lawyer’s violation of this rule.”

Which C?

Question 4

 When a lawyer holds funds in trust and in which two or more persons claim interests, a rule specifically requires the lawyer:

  • A.  to resolve the dispute.
  • B.  to keep the funds separate until the dispute is resolved.
  • C.  to promptly distribute all portions that are not in dispute.
  • D. B & C.

Question 5 & Bonus

There’s a lawyer who has been in the news a lot lately.  The news has included reports that disciplinary complaints have been filed against the lawyer in at least five jurisdictions.

A few weeks ago, the lawyer held a press conference in which the lawyer analogized a client’s claims to a famous scene in this blog’s favorite legal movie, My Cousin Vinny.

Name the lawyer.

Bonus:  identify the specific issue that both the lawyer and Vinny argued rendered witnesses unreliable.

the-quiz

Most Important? We are down to 8!

And then there were 8!

Ten days ago, I created the Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics Tournament. I matched up 64 rules & concepts associated with PR and legal ethics in an NCAA-style bracket.  Ever since, you’ve voted, and we are down to the Elite 8 rules & concepts.  Winners of this round will advance to an historic Final Four.

To vote, go to ELITE 8.

IMG_4678

As the picture shows, this tournament is intentionally low-tech.  Meaning, “no tech.”  Except for the videos referenced below.  If I must say so myself, the videos are jam-packed with hot tips on legal ethics!

This morning, I posted Briefly: what matters most in legal ethics?  In it, I distilled each of the then 16 remaining rules & concepts to a single thought.  For each of today’s 8 winners, here’s the thought I shared this morning.

1.  DUTIES TO NON-CLIENTS

Candor to a Tribunal vs. Social Media: Looking, Friending & Scrubbing

  • The integrity of the system requires that judges not be misled by false evidence.
  • Evidence must not be unfairly located, obtained, concealed, or destroyed.

2.  CONFLICTS & CONFIDENCES

Screening/Imputed Conflicts vs. Same or Substantially Related Matters?

  • Fairness includes strict measures to prevent improper sharing of confidential information.
  • A lawyer cannot switch sides.

3.  TRUST ACCOUNTS, FEES and DUTIES TO CLIENTS

Who Decides? Lawyer or Client? vs. Tech Competence

  • The client chooses the destination, the lawyer the route.
  • It’s 2020.

4.  MY COUSIN VINNY

Were these MAGIC grits?  vs. Did you say “yutes?”

  • On cross, know your facts.
  • What was that your honor?

Again, to vote, go to ELITE 8.

For more, including four 15-minute videos analyzing the rules & concepts in each of the tournament quadrants, go here.  Where else can you get at least 16 tips on professional responsibility & legal ethics in 15 minutes from a speaker sitting at his Garage Bar?!?!

#prmadness

Ethical Responsibilities | Bollinger Shipyards

The 197th Five for Friday Legal Ethics Quiz

I hope you’re all doing well.  Remember: keep rowing the boat.

I don’t have much to say this week.

Wait….are y’all serious?? I can hear the cheers from here! Come on!

Anyhow, I got out for a run yesterday.  During my trek, I pondered “197.”  Initially, my mind fast-forwarded to “200” and whether I should do something special to mark the occasion.  Then I re-wound.  As we’ve learned, 3 weeks is an eternity.  Day by day.

Then, after days of swirling in my clouded mind, a thought crystallized.

Like the rest of you, I haven’t gone anywhere for 2 weeks.  I’ve got my music, TVs, and streaming channels.  I’ve got fish & meat in the freezer, coffee/half & half galore, my Garage Bar, my dart board, the keyboard I’m (still) teaching myself to play, and my bike.  In theory, and likely in the mind of February-me, life is damn good: I’m not at the office and I’ve got all my things.

Things.

On a scale of 0-20, 0 being least important, 20 being most, I’ve realized that my things are, at most, 0.3.

I can hear you again: “Mike, what’s the rest?”

The answer came to me during my run.

Spending time with family and friends.  Chatting with the familiar faces working the various stores and businesses that life brings me to every week.  Catching up with the lawyers I bump into at the court house.  Chuckling at the couple that always takes the corner stools, whose names I couldn’t tell you but whose drink orders I know by heart. The option to wait until the morning to text my Dad about the Sox game.

The life experiences that have nothing to do with things.

They are, at the very least, 19.7

This will end.  And, when it does, I hope I remember the appropriate balance between life and things.

Onto the quiz.

Rules

  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text-a-friend.
  • Exception:  Question 5.  We try to play that one honest.
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • 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
  • Share on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

Attorney called me with an inquiry.  Attorney said “Mike, I represent a witness.  The defendant’s lawyer keeps contacting my client directly. I asked the lawyer to stop.  Lawyer aid Lawyer doesn’t need my permission because my client is only a witness, not a party.  Is Lawyer right?”

What was my response?

  • A.   Yes.
  • B.   The rule is unclear.
  • C.   It depends.  Is your client a material witness?
  • D.  Lawyer is wrong. The rule applies to any person represented in a matter.

Question 2

True or false.

The rule on trial publicity only applies to criminal cases.

Question 3

With respect to legal ethics, the phrase “going up the ladder” is most often used in connection with the duties of an attorney who:

  • A.  is bound to report another attorney to disciplinary authorities.
  • B.  represents an organization.
  • C.  is being paid by someone other than the client.
  • D. paints houses on the side.

Question 4

At one of the Zoom seminars I intend to present, you wake from a brief nap to me discussing conflicts of interest.  If I’m doing my job, it’s unlikely that I will use the word/phrase _____-:

  • A.  material limitation.
  • B.  former.
  • C.  held in connection with a representation.
  • D.  prospective.

And, if I’m doing my job, it’s your resolve that breaks.

Question 5

I’ve been running the Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics Bracket. It’s based on the NCAA March Madness brackets.  In 3 of the 4 quadrants, the contestants are terms and phrases associated with legal ethics.   To vote in the 2nd round, go here.

The contestants in the 4th quadrant are quotes from My Cousin Vinny.  That’s a hint for question 5!  It’s a “fill-in-the-blank” question.

I’ll give Bill Belichick his due: when it comes to coaching football, the long-time Patriots coach clearly has satisfied the duty of competence.  Of course, as a Steelers fan stuck behind enemy lines in New England, I’ve always suspected Belichik’s team of skirting the ethics rules.  For example, 2015’s notorious Deflategate Scandal that involved Tom Brady and underinflated footballs.

At a press conference, Belichick defended his team’s ethics by blaming the deflated footballs on the weather:

  • “”So the atmospheric conditions, as well as the true equilibrium of the ball, is critical to the measurement.”

Asked further about the air pressure measurements in the footballs, Belichick, normally not one to say anything to suggest he’s aware of pop-culture, replied:

  • “”I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert in footballs. I’m not an expert in football measurements. I’m just telling you what I know. I would not say I’m _____________ of the football world, as she was in the car-expertise area.”

Fill-in-the-blank.

Again, to vote in the 2nd round of the #prmadness bracket, go here.

Peace.

the-quiz

 

20 Answers for 2020

Wow!

On Friday, I posted 20 questions for 2020.  Far more than the usual 5, I didn’t expect anyone to take time to submit answers.  Rather, the post was meant to serve as a resource addressing some of the basics on professional responsiblity and ethics in Vermont.

But submissions I received!  Thank you!  The answers follow today’s unexpectedly large Honor Roll.

Honor Roll

Answers

Question 1

The rules with which Vermont attorneys must comply went into effect on September 1, 1999.  They are called:

  • A.   The Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • B.   The Vermont Code of Professional Responsibility.
  • C.   The rules.
  • D.   Those damn rules.

Question 2

Vermont’s attorney regulation program is called the “Professional Responsibility Program.”  The PRP is part of the:

  • A.  The Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation
  • B.   The Vermont Bar Association
  • C.   The Vermont Judiciary.  Chapter II, Section 30 of the Vermont Constitution vests the Supreme Court with the authority to structure an attorney discipline and disability system.  To that end, the Court has promulgated Administrative Order 9, the order creating the Professional Responsibility Program.
  • D.   The Office of the Attorney General

Question 3

Vermont lawyers must carry professional liability insurance.

  • A.    True. It is required by statute.
  • B.    True. It is required by the rules.
  • C.     True, but there is an exception for government employees & in-house counsel.
  • D.    False.  (I intend to blog on this in the coming weeks & months, maybe more than once.)

Question 4

Rule 1.1 requires lawyers to provide clients with competent representation.  In 2018, Vermont became the 33rd state to adopt a Comment to Rule 1.1 that makes it clear that the duty of competence includes a duty to understand the risks and benefits of _______________.

RELEVANT TECHNOLOGY

Question 5

Speaking of the comments to Rule 1.1, in 2019, Vermont added another comment to the rule.  Following the recommendation of the ABA and several commissions that looked at this important issue, the new comment makes it clear that _____________ is an aspect of competence.

Question 6

Rule 1.2(d) prohibits a lawyer from assisting or advising a client to engage in conduct that violates the law.  In Vermont, as with a few other states, that poses issues for lawyers whose clients are involved with a particular industry.

▪What’s the industry?

Cannabis/Marijuana.  The concerns led to the Court adopting Comment 14 to Rule 1.2(d). The Comment clarifies that a lawyer does not violate the rule by assisting and advising clients on matters that are legal under state law.

Question 7

Rule 1.3 requires lawyers to act with reasonable diligence while representing clients.  A comment to the rule suggests that the duty requires sole practitioners to:

  • A.  have a succession plan
  • B.  use a cloud-based trust accounting system
  • C.  hire a bookkeeper (if only part-time) to reconcile the trust account
  • D.  Either B or C.

Question 8

Under Vermont’s rules, a lawyer _______ disclose a client’s intent to commit suicide.

  • A.    Must
  • B.    Must not
  • C.    May.   V.R.Pr.C. 1.6(c) Comment[10]

Question 9

In Vermont, if a prospective client meets with a lawyer in good faith, but does not retain the lawyer, the lawyer’s duty of loyalty is relaxed vis-à-vis the client. That is, if the lawyer did not receive information that could be significantly harmful to the prospective client, the lawyer may appear adverse to the prospective client.

However, another duty is not relaxed.

Which duty remains as stringent as if an actual attorney-client relationship had been formed?

The duty to maintain the prospective client’s confidences.  See, V.R.Pr.C. 1.18

Question 10

In Vermont, how much of a lawyer’s own money may the lawyer keep in a client trust account?

  • A.   $0
  • B.   No more than $100.
  • C.   No more than $500.
  • D.   An amount necessary to cover bank fees & service charges.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.15(b)

Question 11

In Vermont, a lawyer may not disburse funds from trust unless the deposit that is the source of the disbursement constitutes “collected funds.”

Is the following statement true or false?

  • There are no exceptions to the rule.

That is false.  There are several instruments that lawyers my presume to constitute “collected funds” upon deposit.  These exceptions appear in Rule 1.15(g).

Question 12

Fill in the blank (it’s way more than one word):

  • Unlike many other states, Vermont has a rule that specifically prohibits a lawyer from ________________ in order to gain an advantage in a civil matter.

Present, Threaten to  Present, or Participate in Presenting Criminal Charges

Question 13

Fill in the blank:

“In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate on the subject of the representation with a ____________ the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized to do so by law or a court order.”

  • A.  Person.   V.R.Pr.C. 4.2
  • B.  Party

Question 14

In Vermont, which set of rules is relaxed for lawyers who provide pro bono services under the auspices of a non-profit or court approved program?

The rules on _________:

  • A.   Trust Account Management
  • B.   Communicating with a Represented Person/Party
  • C.   Confidences
  • D.  Conflicts of Interest.   V.R.Pr.C. 6.5.

Question 15

Under Vermont’s legal ethics rules, when a lawyer receives a document relating to the representation of a client that the lawyer knows or should know was inadvertently sent, the lawyer ________________.

  • A.   must notify the sender.  V.R.Pr.C. 4.4(b).
  • B.   must notify the client and abide by the client’s instructions on whether to notify the sender.
  • C.  must notify the client and abide by the client’s instructions on whether to use or return the document.
  • D.   B and C.

Question 16

By rule, a pooled-interest bearing trust account must be reconciled:

  • A.   Quarterly.
  • B.   Periodically, but no less than quarterly.
  • C.   Timely, with “timely” meaning “no less than monthly.”  V.R.Pr.C. 1.15A(a)
  • D.  Regularly.

Question 17

By rule, what must a Vermont lawyer maintain for 6 years following the termination of a representation?

  • A.  The client’s file.
  • B.   A copy of the client’s file.
  • C.   Records of funds or property held for the client during the representation.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.15(a).
  • D.   Copies of any advertisement that caused the client to inquire about representation.

Question 18

The matter is Swift v Braun. 

  • Associate works at Small Firm.  Small Firm represents Swift.
  • Large Firm represents Braun.
  • Associate accepts a job at Large Firm.

Unver Vermont’s rules, can Large Firm continue to represent Braun?

  • A.    Yes.
  • B.    Yes, if Associate is screened from working on Swift v. Braun.
  • C.   No.
  • D.   It depends whether Associate was personally & substantially involved in working on Swift v Braun while at Small Firm.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.10(a).

Questions 19, 20 and bonus

In 2019, the ABA updated its list of the Top 25 legal movies of all-time.  2 of the top 3 are set in the same state.

  • 19.  Name one of the movies.   To Kill a Mockingbird
  • 20.  Name the other.  My Cousin Vinny
  • Bonus: name the state.  Alabama

Happy 2020!

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