Monday, July 25, 2011

Complaint Against Judge Leads to Additional Litigation

In 2010, a Texas state court judge filed suit against a well known plaintiff’s attorney. The judge’s complaint included allegations of defamation and extortion. This complaint stemmed from a long standing issue between the judge and attorney. The attorney originally filed a petition with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct which the judge alleges was solely an attempt to diminish the judge’s changes of re-election. The attorney’s petition claimed the judge belittled, berated and ridiculed his colleagues to the public as well as to other judges. Additionally, after pre-suit discovery was conducted, the judge alleged the attorney based his petition on events reported to him by other sources, rather than based on firsthand knowledge.

After filing the petition, the attorney did not act on it until a few weeks before the filing deadline for judicial candidates, at which time the attorney gave copies of the complaint to several media sources. But it did not end there. The attorney also e-mailed a copy of the complaint to over 100 members of the local American Board of Trial Advocates. The question remains whether the attorney filed the complaint was acting in good faith and had knowledge of the judicial misconduct he is asserting or whether he was acting with reckless disregard for the truth of the information he received in violation of Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2. The case is continuing. It is not only clients that are critical of judges and lawyers. Lawyers and judges sometimes point their fingers at each other. Who is correct does not matter. What does matter is that if you have been injured because someone acted improperly you should consider having a lawyer review your situation.

Contact our office to discuss your potential legal malpractice claim.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Attorney May be on the Hook for Improper Notary Practice

In many states attorneys receive a notary commission without having to pass an examination. While notarizing a document is often something that is viewed as more of an administrative task, attorneys who engage in sloppy notary practice may find themselves facing disciplinary action or other liability. It is easy to view notarizing a document as simply a formality, but each affidavit or verification is a sworn legal document and notarizing same could have serious implications for the signer, notary and the lawyer who prepared the document.

If an attorney pressures an employee to notarize a document improperly, she may be violating the rules of professional conduct. While it may not seem like common practice, it is happening more often that one might expect. For example, a senior partner in a large firm asks a young associate to notarize a document in a large case, however, the document was signed prior to the young associate’s involvement. The young associate notarizes or asks a paralegal to notarize the document. In determining whether the young associate has engaged in improper notary practice it is necessary to consult the law of the state. In some states notaries must verify that the document was signed in his or her presence. In other states it is the simple matter of verifying the signature even if there was no personal appearance.

In an effort to adhere to the rules of professional conduct, the young associate’s best bet in this type of situation would be to draft a new document for the person to sign in the presence of the notary. Contact our office to discuss your potential legal malpractice claim.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Report of an Increase in Legal Malpractice Claims

The AmLaw Daily recently published an article noting an increase in legal malpractice claims between 2010 and 2011 as a result of the state of the economy and the real estate market. Real estate practices were cited as the most likely to be sued due to conflicts of interest and failure to file timely as the main basis’s for claims. The survey polled six insurance companies who provide legal malpractice insurance coverage to approximately seventy-five percent of large and midsized law firms in the United States. One insurance company surveyed noted an 11 to 20 percent increase in claims within the first six months of 2011. One company noted it’s claims rate had increased by 20%, three companies said their claims rates increased by 6 to 10 percent, and the remaining two said their claims rates have remained stable.

It is anticipated, according to the article, that once the real estate market rebounds, the claims of legal malpractice against real estate firms should level back to where they were. During the recession, another publication published an article after consulting with several lawyers, who predicted that law firms could expect to see a rise in legal malpractice suits due to clients being more inclined to seek ways of recouping some of their losses in revenue from other sources, specifically, litigation. To read the article in its entirety, click here.