Utah State Bar Ethics Hotline
Call the Bar’s Ethics Hotline at (801) 531-9110 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for fast, informal ethics advice. Leave a detailed message describing the problem and within a twenty-four hour workday period a lawyer from the Office of Professional Conduct will give you ethical help about small everyday matters and larger complex issues.
More information about the Bar’s Ethics Hotline may be found at www.utahbar.org/opc/opc_ethics_hotline.html. Information about the formal Ethics Advisory Opinion process can be found at www.utahbar.org/rules_ops_pols/index_of_opinions.html.
On March 15, 2012, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Admonition against an attorney for violation of Rules 3.5(b) (Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal), 8.4(d) (Misconduct), and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
The attorney represented an employer in an administrative hearing before the Workforce Services Board. After receiving an unfavorable ruling, the attorney represented the employer in an appeal of the unemployment eligibility decision before the Utah Court of Appeals. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the decision and issued its decision. The attorney sent a letter to the judges involved in the case. The letter was entered on the court’s docket. A copy of the letter was not sent to opposing counsel on the case. The letter criticized the court’s decision and asked the court to reconsider the merits of his arguments. The criticism was made in a disrespectful and condescending manner. At the time the attorney sent the letter to the judges, the time for appealing the decision had passed.
Absence of prior discipline and absence of dishonest or selfish motive.
Refusal to acknowledge wrongful conduct and begrudging acknowledgment that the language could be offensive.
On March 22, 2012, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Admonition against an attorney for violation of Rules 1.2(a) (Scope of Representation) and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
An attorney was hired for a bankruptcy matter. The attorney failed to adequately communicate with the client regarding the consequences of the trustees’ objections. The failed communication with the clients resulted in the attorney allowing the conformation hearing to go forward with an unacceptable payment plan for the debtors. The client should have approved the payment in advance. The attorney failed to communicate with the clients regarding the consequences of the hearing and the strategy being employed. The attorney’s behavior was generally negligent and caused injury.
Lack of prior discipline.
On March 26, 2012, the Chair of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court entered an Order of Discipline: Admonition against an attorney for violation of Rules 8.4(c) (Misconduct) and 8.4(a) (Misconduct) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
The attorney was hired to represent a client in a custody and child support matter. The attorney received an initial payment with additional payments to be paid in the future. As the representation progressed, the client was unable to make payments and the amount owed to the attorney continued to grow. The client and the attorney exchanged text messages where the attorney indicated the client could pay the bills in “other ways.” In an effort to persuade the client, the attorney indicated they would write off a set amount of the bill for each “visit.” Although it appears that the client considered accepting the attorney’s offer, the client did so only because the client did not want the attorney to withdraw from representation. The client acknowledged that the attorney’s representation was not negatively impacted by the text message exchanges. After the client submitted the complaint to the OPC, the attorney was offered a diversion, with one of the terms being that the attorney would write off the remainder of the client’s bill. The attorney negligently sent an email to the client believing that the client was aware of the diversion proposal. The attorney believed that the terms of diversion were not determined with regard to whether any fee waiver would be less than the total outstanding amount. Little injury was caused. (more…)
Utah State Bar Ethics Hotline