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Asbestos Fraud by California Firm:

An Ohio court found that Brayton Purcell, a California plaintiffs' firm, submitted fraudulent asbestos claims and that partner Christopher Andreas, among other things, made statements to the court that "were patently false and could only have been designed to deceive this court and [defendant] Lorillard." As a consequence, Judge Harry Hanna has revoked their pro hac vice privileges in Cuyahoga County.

Gabriel Malor (mail):
For those of you who, like me, were wondering what the hell JA was talking about, the definition of pro hac vice can be found here.

pro hac vice (proh hock vee-chay) prep. Latin for "this time only," the phrase refers to the application of an out-of-state lawyer to appear in court for a particular trial, even though he/she is not licensed to practice in the state where the trial is being held. The application is usually granted, but sometimes the court requires association with a local attorney.


My question: how significant is this as punishment? Yeah, the firm is going to have trouble in Cuyahoga County, but is that it? Don't patently false statements designed to deceive a court deserve more?
1.19.2007 12:11pm
Dave-TuCents (www):
Well, I guess fraud when committed by an attorney is acceptable behavior. It's not like anyone independent of the guild is policing this profession.
1.19.2007 1:13pm
Steve:
I certainly hope the judge will refer the matter to the California Bar for further action. Apparently the reason why the punishment seems relatively mild to date is that this whole issue came up as a result of a motion to disqualify counsel filed by the defendant, and disqualification was the only relief they had requested. They could still file a motion for monetary sanctions, for example.
1.19.2007 2:07pm
Bpbatista (mail):
These clowns got off light. They should be disbarred, fined, and criminally prosecuted in Cuyahoga County. These shysters have been ripping off the legal system for years. Finally these judges are seeing what's been hiding in plain sight for years.
1.19.2007 2:09pm
Malvolio:
How is this not ordinary felony fraud?
1.19.2007 3:56pm
Cornellian (mail):
Well, I guess fraud when committed by an attorney is acceptable behavior. It's not like anyone independent of the guild is policing this profession.

B.S.

An Ohio court can't disbar them in Ohio since they're not members of the Ohio bar, and an Ohio court doesn't have the power to disbar them in California. The matter may well be taken up by the California bar authorities and there may be further consequences beyond just not being able to get another pro hac vice permit in Ohio. If it were all some sinister conspiracy of judges and lawyers to cover up misconduct they wouldn't have been sanctioned in Ohio in the first place.
1.19.2007 4:04pm
Dave-TuCents (www):
Cornelian

You cry BS but don't identify any. Perhaps you will identify for me just who, independent of the guild, is policing this profession? Like the lawyers are policing everyone else.

You further seem to presume that disbarment is the only available remedy. Non-trivial monetary sanctions, jail time for contempt, actual criminal charges of perjury or fraud, any or all of these are available, as are others.

All I see happening is the 'Good Ole Boys' network, all with the same guild membership, doing each other a 'Professional Courtesy' by keeping it to a minimal slap on the wrist. As usual.
1.19.2007 4:36pm
Cornellian (mail):
Dave-TuCents

All I see happening is the 'Good Ole Boys' network, all with the same guild membership, doing each other a 'Professional Courtesy' by keeping it to a minimal slap on the wrist. As usual.

Perhaps that's all your seeing because you haven't taken the time to look. A simple Google search on Ohio lawyer discipline would take you to this rule:

RULE V. DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE

Section 1. Creation of Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court.

(A) Composition. There shall be a Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court consisting of twenty-eight members as follows: seventeen attorneys admitted to the practice of law in Ohio, seven active or voluntarily retired judges of the state of Ohio or judges retired pursuant to Article IV, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution, and four nonattorney members.


Note that there are four nonattorney members of this Board. If lawyer discipline in Ohio were some big conspiracy of the legal profession to let lawyers get away with anything, one would expect those four members to be blowing the whistle on such wrist-slapping on a daily basis.

You further seem to presume that disbarment is the only available remedy. Non-trivial monetary sanctions, jail time for contempt, actual criminal charges of perjury or fraud, any or all of these are available, as are others.

Bringing criminal charges for perjury or fraud is not within the purview of the trial judge. That's up to the district attorney. The fact that the trial judge considered the law firm to be lying says nothing about what the DA will eventually do.

Furthermore, jail time for contempt would be a pretty extreme sanction for anyone found to be making false statements to the court. I see no indication that the lawyers in this case were treated any more favorably. The judge might well have imposed monetary sanctions but there are any number of reasons why he may not have for reasons having nothing to do with your "lawyer conspiracy" theory. He may have been constrained by the nature of a motion brought before him or by other circumstances.

If you want to put forward a grand conspiracy theory involving all lawyers in the US covering up for any other lawyer engaging in misconduct, by all means identify your evidence.
1.19.2007 5:48pm
The Human Fund (mail):
I might add that it is possible that, by having their pro hac status revoked in this case, the attorneys are at a serious disadvantage in trying to pro hac into any subsequent cases (in any other jurisdictions). It also seems fairly likely that this will have to be reported to any jurisdictions in which these attorneys are licensed to practice law. (I say all this with great generality because the specifics vary by jurisdiction.)
1.19.2007 5:49pm
Dave-TuCents (www):
Cornelian, you're the only one talking about dark, sinister conspiracies. Sounds rather silly to me. Is this really the best straw man you could come up with?


all lawyers in the US covering up for any other lawyer


Your invention, not my argument. I don't claim covering up, only failure to adequately police the profession, tolerance of deliberate malfeasance, and penalties unreasonably trivial when compared with those imposed on non guild members for the same or similar behavior. These points are the ones you avoid answering. Not that I asked you to.


four nonattorney members of this Board


Out of 28. Seems rather similar to the various other professional boards (AMA, ADA, etc) which the legal profession has considered inadequate to oversee their particular professions. I see no distinguishing features that give this board any presumption of higher quality than those already deemed inadequate, by lawyers.


jail time for contempt would be a pretty extreme sanction for anyone found to be making false statements to the court


You do mean 'any lawyer', don't you? Many non-priviledged people (that is, non guild members) have been in jail for even less.


the judge might well have imposed monetary sanctions but there are any number of reasons why he may not have


Perhaps that the application of such sanctions are considered unusual and unreasonable for something so trivial as deliberate lying on the part of an officer of the court. Because such behavior is generally expected?


He may have been constrained by the nature of a motion brought before him


The judge cannot declare someone in contempt unless opposing counsel asks him to? Doesn't sound like anything I'm familiar with.

But in any case, you seem to be happy with having the legal profession police everyone, while having no significant non-lawyer oversight of their own conduct. I'm not. And things like this particular situation do not operate to make me any more happy with the current oversight.

Let's say a structural engineer lied about, oh, say tensile strengths of materials to a customer, and delivered a completely defective product. The defects were caught after construction, but before anyone was hurt. Do you think the engineer would simply be prevented from taking contracts in that county in the future? Would 24 engineers and 4 non-engineers be selected to look into his behavior? Do you think that large monetary penalties and talk of jail time would be the order of the day? Do you think lawyers are incapable of working to the same standards, or just that they're deserving of special 'kid glove' treatment?
1.20.2007 1:19am
Cornellian (mail):
Dave Tu-Cents,

Here's what you said originally:

All I see happening is the 'Good Ole Boys' network, all with the same guild membership, doing each other a 'Professional Courtesy' by keeping it to a minimal slap on the wrist. As usual.

I then pointed out that the Ohio lawyer discipline commission has four non-attorney members, so lawyer discipline in Ohio isn't "all with the same guild membership."

You then back away and now say:

[Four] Out of 28. Seems rather similar to the various other professional boards (AMA, ADA, etc) which the legal profession has considered inadequate to oversee their particular professions. I see no distinguishing features that give this board any presumption of higher quality than those already deemed inadequate, by lawyers.

So first you say that lawyers get away with stuff because other lawyers pay them a "professional courtesy" by refusing to take any action against them. I then ask why the four non-attorney members of the disciplinary commission aren't blowing the whistle over the "slap on the wrist" approach on a daily basis. Instead of answering the question you claim that this commission isn't any different than commissions governing other professions, and that those commissions have been "deemed inadequate" by lawyers, whatever that means. So I'll ask again, if lawyers on the Ohio disciplinary commission are simply refusing to take any serious action against misbehaving lawyers in Ohio in a situation where laypeople would do so, why aren't the four non-attorney members of that commission giving interviews to the press every day pointing this out?

jail time for contempt would be a pretty extreme sanction for anyone found to be making false statements to the court

You do mean 'any lawyer', don't you? Many non-priviledged people (that is, non guild members) have been in jail for even less.


Nope, I meant any person. How often do you think anyone ever gets jailed for contempt for making false statements to a court in a civil case? Can you provide any cites? Not being believed in a civil case means you lose and in virtually every case that's the only penalty you'll ever see.

Oh and by the way, try logging onto Westlaw or Lexis and looking at the endless stream of malpractice claims being brought against lawyers. I guess the plaintiff's counsel in those cases didn't get the "professional courtesy" memo.
1.20.2007 2:29pm
Dave-TuCents (www):
Cornellian

I didn't back away from characterizing the 'Good Ole Boys' network as all guild members. Sorry.


why aren't the four non-attorney members of that commission giving interviews to the press


Because their family member / best friends / spouses are lawyers? Because they only got selected for the position on the commission because they were sympathetic to the guild? If I were in Ohio, I may have better answers. As is, I have no reason to trust them, they work for the guild. Yes, this is a poor answer, but I further explained it by example. By the way, when will you cite the distinguishing features that give this board any presumption of higher quality than those already deemed inadequate? The AMA board also had consumer representitives, but AMA discipline was considered inadequate. Exactly why is the ABA board any better than the AMA board?

And about the "endless stream of malpractice claims being brought against lawyers". Show me how many survive to get to a jury. Show me the number of seven figure awards and/or settlements, similar to the medical industry. It's easy to file a claim, and even easier to have it dismissed by a sympathetic judge who's 'been there'.

You have yourself tacitly admitted the lack of parity with other professions, as demonstrated by examples of equivalent conduct with wildly disparate penalties, by failing to address the issue.

This firm's conduct refelcts very poorly on the firm. The failure to have any significant penalty assessed reflects poorly on the profession. The legal profession earns it's current ugly reputation every day. I think you know this, you just don't like my saying so.

But if you don't realize how the lack of penalty reflects on the profession, then my question of 'Do you think lawyers are incapable of working to the same standards, or just that they're deserving of special 'kid glove' treatment?' still stands.
1.20.2007 4:37pm
Cornellian (mail):
why aren't the four non-attorney members of that commission giving interviews to the press

Because their family member / best friends / spouses are lawyers?


So now the conspiracy widens? If even non-attorneys are not taking the disciplinary measures you consider appropriate it must be because they're related to or friends with lawyers? Admit you know nothing about the 4 non-attorney members of the Ohio disciplinary commission and that you're just making this stuff up.

By the way, when will you cite the distinguishing features that give this board any presumption of higher quality than those already deemed inadequate? The AMA board also had consumer representitives, but AMA discipline was considered inadequate. Exactly why is the ABA board any better than the AMA board?

I didn't cite any "distinguishing features" because I have no idea what point you're trying to make. "Higher quality" than what? "Deemed inadequate" by who? "AMA discipline was considered inadequate" by who? Do you have a case to cite to or are you just talking about some guy's opinion?

And the Ohio disciplinary commission isn't an "ABA board." The ABA is a voluntary organization that can't discipline any lawyer for anything, anymore than the AARP can "discipline" people over 55. Lawyer discipline is handled by state governments, not the ABA.
1.20.2007 6:45pm
Cornellian (mail):
And about the "endless stream of malpractice claims being brought against lawyers". Show me how many survive to get to a jury.

Very few civil claims of any sort ever get to a jury. You did know that right?

This firm's conduct refelcts very poorly on the firm. The failure to have any significant penalty assessed reflects poorly on the profession.

You have no idea what penalty the firm will eventually face, you only know what the trial judge did in that case. As has already been pointed out, the California bar authorities are responsible for disciplining California lawyers, and the Ohio DA is responsible for prosecuting perjury. You don't know what either of them will end up doing.
1.20.2007 6:55pm