From a D.C. Court of Appeals Opinion Last Thursday

Law students and young lawyers take note. (Heck, we old lawyers should, too.) You don’t want a court to say about you what the D.C. Court of Appeals said in Pietrangelo v. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, LLP (Apr. 11, 2013):

Appellant James E. Pietrangelo, II, a licensed attorney acting pro se, brought an action for legal malpractice and an array of other alleged wrongs against appellee Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, LLP (hereinafter “WilmerHale”) for conduct related to WilmerHale’s pro bono representation of Pietrangelo and others in a challenge to the since-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) statute,FN1 which regulated the treatment of gays in the military….

We agree with WilmerHale that Pietrangelo’s conduct in this case and at trial was a shocking abuse of the judicial system, such that dismissal of the case pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. R. 41(b) would not have been an abuse of discretion by the trial judge. Given the fact that Pietrangelo is an attorney, his actions are all the more disturbing….

Pietrangelo availed himself of the District of Columbia courts to obtain relief for alleged wrongs. In pursuit of those claims, he engaged in litigation that consumed substantial resources in the trial court, resulting in a docket sheet with over 300 entries in two years. The trial court made painstaking efforts to provide a fair trial, investing substantial court and judicial resources. But after demanding and receiving substantial time and attention from the trial court, Pietrangelo’s attitude in return was one of flagrant contempt, whereby he deliberately disregarded orders of the trial court and exhibited an attitude of disrespect to the trial judge and the administration of justice. This is particularly troubling because Pietrangelo is himself an attorney.

Pietrangelo first testified falsely, denying authorship of an email originating from his email account to WilmerHale….

The surrounding legal issues are potentially quite interesting as well (WilmerHale prevailed on all of them), but the public admonition of the plaintiff-lawyer seemed to me especially noteworthy.

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