Tag Archives: Ethics

Holiday Helping Roundup

It is that time of year again!  Time for the Holiday Helping Roundup!

–  The Supreme Judicial Court amended Mass. Rule of Prof’l Conduct 1.5(b) and 6.5 that deal with fee arrangements.  The original order is available here.  However, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers published a helpful article further explaining the new rules which will take effect starting January 1, 2013.

–  Peter Madoff, the brother to the infamous Bernie Madoff, is sentenced to ten years in prison for crimes that lead to the failure to detect fraud in the massive Ponzi scheme that swindled millions and billions of dollars from unsuspecting investors.  According to a New York Times DealBook article, Peter Madoff admitted to “falsifying documents, lying to securities regulators and filing sham tax returns.”

–  The Daily Beast published an article about a 52 year old man convicted as a juvenile for a rape that occurred in 1976.  Carlton Franklin was 15 years old at the time of the crime.  The case was heard in a New Jersey family court, and the judge found Franklin killed Lena Triano by bludgeoning, raping, and stabbing her.  Franklin’s DNA matched the semen found in the victim’s underpants.  Franklin spent 17 years in prison for a robbery and kidnapping home invasion committed when he was 18 years old, but he has also been released from prison for 14 years, according to a New York Times article.  Franklin has yet to receive his sentencing by the family court judge.

–  The Department of Justice posted a press release concerning Mercer SME, a New Jersey company.  The company plead guilty for its bid rigging conspiracy involving the sale of municipal tax liens.  The press release states:

The conspirators agreed to coordinate their bids and allocate the tax liens amongst themselves, at the expense of distressed property owners,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program….

When the owner of real property fails to pay taxes on that property, the municipality in which the property is located may attach a lien for the amount of the unpaid taxes. If the taxes remain unpaid after a waiting period, the lien may be sold at auction. State law requires that investors bid on the interest rate delinquent property owners will pay upon redemption. By law, the bid opens at 18 percent interest and, through a competitive bidding process, can be driven down to zero percent. If a lien remains unpaid after a certain period of time, the investor who purchased the lien may begin foreclosure proceedings against the property to which the lien is attached.

–  Keep an eye out for the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) scandal.  The Department of Justice and U.S. prosecutors are going after UBS for manipulating LIBOR interest rates.  The company may enter a safe harbor if they identify others involved in the scheme.  Bloomberg published an article about the fraud and collusion.  In addition, the Huffington Post article states UBS settlement costs are currently at $1.5 billion.  The Huffington Post article goes further to say:

Authorities are loath to prosecute big banks criminally, Enrich writes, because they consider it a “death sentence” for the institutions.  Legal experts aren’t so sure that’s really the case, as they discussed recently on HuffPost Live. But prosecutors don’t dare take the chance, because toppling these behemoths might crush the financial system.

Read more about the charges and incoming guilty plea at the FBI and DOJ website here.

–  A Yelp reviewer is in the midst of a defamation suit after writing an online review about a contractor who worked on her home and allegedly stole her jewelry.  The contractor claims that the online review is false and that he was not paid.  The Yelp reviewer states that the quality of the contractor’s work was poor and that her review is truthful.  Read more about the defamation suit published by the ABA Journal here.

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NYC Bar Releases Opinion About Jury Research and Social Media

The Internet seeps into juries and, in response to the expansion of social media into our lives, the New York City Bar released an opinion on jury research and social media.  The opinion is available here.

In short,

Attorneys may use social media websites for juror research as long as no communication occurs between the lawyer and the juror as a result of the research. Attorneys may not research jurors if the result of the research is that the juror will receive a communication. If an attorney unknowingly or inadvertently causes a communication with a juror, such conduct may run afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The attorney must not use deception to gain access to a juror’s website or to obtain information, and third parties working for the benefit of or on behalf of an attorney must comport with all the same restrictions as the attorney. Should a lawyer learn of juror misconduct through otherwise permissible research of a juror’s social media activities, the lawyer must reveal the improper conduct to the court.

ABA Journal published an article further detailing the NYC Bar opinion which is available here.  What is important to note is that even if the interaction is unintentional or accidental, but creates a connection with a potential juror, it will be deemed an ethics violation.

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