Risk Update

Lawyer Ethics, Errors and Issues — Lateral Conflicts Create Clash and Cost, Social Media Posts Cross Conflict Line, Ethics Rules Waived in Texas,

Lawyer’s racist and anti-Muslim rants on social media entitle defendant to new trial, court rules” —

  • “The top court in Massachusetts has granted a new trial to a Black, Muslim defendant whose appointed lawyer expressed ‘vitriolic hatred’ and racism in social media posts… Some of the online posts on Facebook were apparently made from the courthouse.”
  • “The court concluded that Dew was deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel because of the ‘conflict of interest inherent in counsel’s bigotry against persons of the defendant’s faith and race.'”
  • “The court said it couldn’t know with certainty whether Doyle’s actions during Dew’s representation were motivated by Dew’s interests. But ‘on the record before us, we cannot credibly assume that Doyle’s representation was not affected by his virulent anti-Muslim and racist views.'”
  • “Dew ‘has more than met his burden to establish that Doyle’s representation of him was impaired by an actual conflict of interest,’ the court said.”

Ethics rules waived for Texas AG lawyers defending boss, Ken Paxton, in impeachment trial” —

  • “The Texas attorney general’s office waived its own ethics rules when allowing six employees to take extended leaves to defend their boss, Ken Paxton, in his upcoming impeachment trial, according to agency records obtained by The Dallas Morning News.”
  • “A longstanding agency policy only allows attorneys to perform outside legal work in narrow circumstances, after a rigorous vetting process and without pay in order to avoid conflicts of interest.”
  • “First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster granted an exception for the six staff in late May, and also promised the employees their jobs back after the impeachment proceedings end, the records show.”
  • “The House impeached Paxton for allegedly abusing the power of his office and accepting bribes, among other alleged misdeeds. The third-term Republican, who’s suspended without pay pending the outcome of a Senate trial, has cast the GOP-initiated proceedings as a sham meant to thwart the will of voters.”
  • “Shortly after the GOP-led House voted to impeach Paxton last month, the agency employees wrote to Webster that they would take leave to represent their boss in the impeachment proceedings. The state employees noted that they would like to use their paid leave until it’s exhausted, and then take an unpaid leave.”
  • “Hilton and Stone organized a law firm — Stone Hilton PLLC — on May 31, according to formation papers filed with the Secretary of State. They have since issued written communications regarding Paxton’s impeachment trial using that firm’s letterhead.”
  • “Webster determined in the letter that the staffers’ activity poses no conflict with their employment with the agency, that they can be paid for the outside work with non-agency sources, and that their ‘temporary absence will not disrupt or impede ongoing OAG operations in any manner.'”

McDermott Sued By Recruited Atty Over Client Conflicts, Pay” —

  • “Entertainment litigator Jeffery McFarland sued McDermott Will & Emery LLP and recruiter Watanabe LLC in California state court Tuesday for allegedly failing to disclose conflicts the firm had with his book of clients when it hired him in 2020, and for allegedly cutting his compensation arrangement from $3.25 million to $1 million.”
  • “In his Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, McFarland claimed that McDermott and Watanabe, which was involved in his move to the firm, ‘acted in concert’ and caused him damage via the ‘negligently undisclosed conflicts’ that McDermott had with his book of businesses when he agreed to join it in the summer of 2020.”
  • “The complaint alleges that McFarland scheduled meetings with McDermott and filled out a lateral partner questionnaire, or LPQ, to detail his client history and billings. During his interview, he said he made it clear that he was typically adverse to major studios except for NBC Universal, and that he also stressed that he didn’t know which clients would follow him, as he’d never moved as a partner.”
  • “McDermott allegedly told him that wouldn’t be an issue and ultimately made a ‘very attractive offer’ worth $3.25 million per year, the suit states. Under the terms, McFarland was to become an income partner for the rest of 2020, with his compensation prorated.”
  • “But McFarland claims he faced months of conflict issues between McDermott and the clients he sought to bring with him, and that he tussled with the firm over changes to his compensation structure in early 2021. McFarland says he left the firm on Sept. 1, 2021, just a year after he started.”
  • “…Tuesday’s filing reads. ‘In 2023, plaintiff learned for the first time that MWE claims to have provided information to Watanabe regarding the undisclosed conflicts at MWE and that Watanabe failed to provide that information to plaintiff in advance of him agreeing to the partnership at MWE.'”
  • “McFarland’s complaint makes claims for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, accounting, common counts, concealment, and promissory estoppel.”