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Bar News - January 18, 2008

Notes from a Messy Desk


Putting the ‘Public’ into Censure


The Florida Board of Governors has reinstated the practice of administering public reprimands in person at its board meetings. 


Former Bar President Hank Coxe has perhaps a unique perspective on the public reprimands. He led the effort to end the board’s public reprimands several years ago, and then presided over the Special Commission on Lawyer Regulation which advocated their resumption. “The input from nonlawyers…[was] so overwhelmingly in favor of it, but so were the judges and lawyers [on the Commission],” said Coxe.


Coxe said about the time the board began phasing out the reprimands, the [Florida] Supreme Court began administering public reprimands of judges on oral argument days. These reprimands were broadcast on TV and the Internet.


“The fact that these proceedings are open to the public and are televised enhances the credibility of the court to ensure that judges comply with the canons of judicial conduct,” said former Justice Major Harding, who not only served on the Special Commission on Lawyer Regulation but also was on the court when it began its public reprimands.


The public reprimands of attorneys administered by the Bar always end with this admonition: “This public reprimand is now part of your permanent Florida Bar disciplinary records. You are further advised that while this public reprimand does not affect your privilege of practicing law, future misconduct will. The lawyers of Florida expect your future conduct be in compliance with your oath, and you should demand the same of yourself.”


Source: The Florida Bar News, December 1, 2007 issue.


Privilege a One-Way Street?


A recent Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decision ordered the disclosure at trial of a memo from an in-house lawyer to her client in response to a request for legal advice, saying that the lawyer’s response wasn’t protected by attorney-client privilege. The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), which filed an amicus brief in Nationwide Mutual Insurance, et. al vs. John Fleming, et. al., in a news release denounced the appeals court decision, saying its reasoning defies precedent and is totally unworkable. “The lower court [whose ruling was affirmed] ruled that clients can ask for advice and such communications are covered by privilege, but it found when an in-house lawyer communicates back to her client, it’s not covered since it doesn’t include a request for legal advice.”


Wacky Warnings


A warning on a small tractor reads: “Danger: Avoid Death.” Another label, publicized in a contest for “wacky warning labels” promoted by the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, reads: “Do not iron while wearing shirt.”


The contest awarded an honorable mention to a warning on a felt-tip marker: “This Marker should not be used as a writing instrument for signing checks or legal documents.”



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