Thursday, May 10, 2018

Oh, dear, what can the matter be?

Really?  You think that's the problem?

I am still a member of the Texas Bar, even though I haven't practiced law in 25 years (and never intend to again, especially at this time of life).  I used to spend some time with the Bar Journal that comes to me every month, reading about lawyers who had died, or retired, or changed firms.  I knew a few of them at the time, or might have (it's a big state).  I do remember the disbarment proceedings reports:  not because of any one person's story, but because it was so unusual.  Violations of ethics for lawyers is complicated, like everything else.  There are basically two sets of rules:  one describing the things you should do, the other describing that which you cannot do.  Running afoul of those can cost you your license to practice law.

As I recall, the surest way to a disbarment proceeding was to mess with your client's property, most commonly the money clients have given you as a retainer, or that you hold for any purpose in escrow.  Escrow creates a special relationship that stock brokers are so anxious today not to be burdened with:  a fiduciary duty.  Simply put, the fiduciary duty means you must take care of the property (usually, again, $$$$) with greater care than you would your own property.  Breach that duty, and you are almost guaranteed a world of hurt.  The shortest route to disbarment, in other words, is to mess with the client's money.

Which is why Rudy Giuliani's old law firm is saying this:

“We cannot speak for Mr. Giuliani with respect to what was intended by his remarks,” the firm’s spokeswoman said. “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”

Because what Giuliani is alleging is a breach of fiduciary duty.  You may say you did it to allow the client to keep clean hands (which is probably illegal, and undoubtedly unethical, since you are basically engaging in fraud against your client even if you think it is for the client's protection), but the simple fact is:  you don't mess with the client's money.  Do law firms do this anyway?  It's certainly possible; it may even be gospel Giuliani is speaking.

But there used to be a thing called a "secret gospel," and it was secret for a reason.  Giuliani is basically asking the State Bar of New York (or the AG, I don't know how the Bar is set up under New York law) to begin an investigation into the ethical and legal practices of Greenburg Traurig.  Some clients may prefer the plausible deniability of the situation Giuliani describes; other clients may just want to investigate the accounting on the funds they have given to the firm to be held in escrow, as a retainer or for any other purpose.

In short, Giuliani seems to have tired of damaging Trump and, like Trump, wants to damage everyone associated with him.

It must be something in the water in Manhattan.....

1 comment:

  1. I guess when your idea of a great legal mind is Roy Cohn you're just likely to hire the likes of Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani. I wonder if Trump might end up holding the record for having lawyers who get disbarred before they die.