Archive for the tpoic: ‘sanctions’

What Would Happen If We Were Unable To Discipline Unethical Behavior?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

The Board of Bar Examiners weeds out candidates who, although they would like to be lawyers, do not possess the necessary good moral character or are otherwise unfit to practice law. In my State of Texas, they disbar or accept resignations in lieu of disbarment about 50 lawyers a year. There would be no one equipped to deal with the problem.

What if the Bar did not have the ability to sanction or disbar unethical lawyers? Who would protect clients from lawyers who do not attempt to play by the ethical rules?

There would be no one equipped to deal with the problem.

We only need to look across the border into Mexico to see an example of this situation. Unlike Texas, where membership in the Texas Bar is mandatory, lawyers in Mexico are not required to belong to any bar association. If they are members of a bar association and do something that would warrant disbarment by the local bar association, they can 1) withdraw from the bar association and continue to practice law or 2) move to another part of Mexico where they join a new bar association and continue to practice law. Sanctions by the bar association have little impact on lawyers in Mexico.

Not long ago, the law school in Oaxaca, Mexico, invited me to their campus to discuss suggestions I have for addressing the problems
Bruce A. Campbell (right) with some of the attorneys in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was accompanied by Dale Howe, who spoke about social ethics. (l to r) Licenciada Raquel, Licenciado Taide, Licenciado Pedro Martinez, Licenciado Telesforo Pizarro, Dale Howe, Bruce Campbell, Esq.
created by lawyers who could not be effectively sanctioned. The solution that I proposed identified two areas that must be addressed:

  • Collaboration: Form a small group of the most highly regarded lawyers and judges who could come together and agree on certain rules that cannot be compromised. The affiliation is announced in the local news media and on the group’s Internet site.
  • Public disclosure: If a member violates a rule, the group would disclose in the local news media and on the group’s Internet site 1) the fact of the violation and 2) the sanction imposed.

This solution provides some very real benefits:

  • The peer pressure produced by the example of highly regarded lawyers and judges would encourage other lawyers to adopt an enforceable code of ethics.
  • Announcements of the group’s membership and disciplinary actions provides the public with assurance that the group holds itself accountable to the ethical practice of law, which unaffiliated lawyers and judges could not easily provide.

The net result of implementing this proposal is that the public would ultimately weed out the lawyers who prey on clients. If individuals did not hire unethical lawyers, those lawyers might adopt ethical practices out of economic necessity.

The response was positive. We are now discussing when we will be able to return to Oaxaca in order to continue the dialogue. This kind of issue takes a long time to resolve and working solutions may not be adopted during my lifetime. My hope is that by openly discussing the issue, we might ultimately lead to a result of making it very difficult for unethical practitioners to survive economically.

In closing, I want to make it clear, that even without the consequences of sanctions and disbarment, many lawyers in Mexico endeavor to be good and faithful servants to their clients. It is the self-serving lawyers who give the profession a black eye, cause harm to their clients, and need a new legal ethic.

Images of Oaxaca, Mexico:

Recovery of Sanction Fees: Who Does the Money Belong To?

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

View BrochureHave you ever wondered about what the right thing to do is if a plaintiff is awarded a monetary sanction in addition to a jury award or a settlement? Whose money is it? This issue and several others will be a discussed at the CLE seminar:

Strategies for Damages and Attorney Fees
LIVE • Dallas • February 18-19, 2010
VIDEO • Houston • March 25-26, 2010

At 11:15 AM on Thursday, Bruce A. Campbell will present “Recovery of Sanction Fees: Who Does the Money Belong To?”

View the brochure.

And you thought your day was bad?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Eclipse by Bruce A. CampbellIn Qualcomm Inc. v. Broadcom Corp.,1 a Federal Judge for the Southern District of California handed Qualcomm and six of its retained attorneys severe sanctions relating to “monumental” discovery violations after attorneys for Qualcomm failed to produce “tens of thousands” of e-mails until after trial. Specifically, the court stated that Qualcomm violated its discovery obligations by failing to produce more than 46,000 e-mails and documents that were requested in discovery (which Qualcomm agreed to produce). The court noted that Qualcomm failed to present any evidence attempting to explain or justify its failure to produce the documents. The court also found that it was likely one or more of the retained lawyers chose not to look into the correct location of the documents and accepted the unsubstantiated assurances of Qualcomm that its searches were sufficient. Of the eighteen attorneys representing Qualcomm, three were deemed responsible for the discovery failure because they handled Qualcomm’s discovery responses and production of documents, while three more were deemed responsible for the discovery violation because they did not perform a reasonable inquiry to determine whether Qualcomm had complied with its discovery obligations.

As sanctions, the court ordered Qualcomm to pay Broadcom for all of its attorneys’ fees and costs, which totaled $8.5 million dollars. To address the potential ethical violations, the court also referred six of Qualcomm’s retained attorneys to the State Bar of California.

If nothing else, the Southern District Court of California’s response to Qualcomm and its attorneys shows that discovery creates the risk of substantial potential exposure.

12008 WL 66932