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Attorney E-Newsletter

February 2014

CLE Board Ups Distance Learning, Ethics Hours

The Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board has announced changes to the regulations for continuing legal education which will affect all lawyers beginning with compliance periods with 2015 deadlines.

By a rule change published at 44 Pa.B. 768, the number of credits that may be earned through distance learning is increased from 4 to 6 of the total 12 required hours.

The Board also adopted an amendment to Section 3 of the CLE Board Regulations to increase the requirement for CLE in ethics, professionalism, or substance abuse from one hour to two. The requirement for CLE in substantive law, practice and procedure is reduced from 11 to 10, so the total time per compliance period remains at 12 hours.

The CLE board is responsible for administering the rules pertaining to continuing education for attorneys. This responsibility includes monitoring each attorney’s compliance with the requirements, notifying attorneys of CLE status, and accrediting CLE providers and courses.

PA Lawyers Fund Sets $1 Million Cap; Limits Business Claims

The Supreme Court has adopted amendments to the rules governing the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security, setting some limits on claims against the Fund. In a rule issued January 24, 2014, published at 44 Pa.B. 768 (2/8/14), the Court amended Rule 514 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement to make two significant changes.

First, the list of entities who may not make a claim set forth in Rule 514(a)(4) was amended to exclude claims by a business organization having twenty or more employees. In an unusual step, Chief Justice Castille dissented from the per curiam order, writing,

In my view, the purpose of the Fund does not include reimbursing large entities which are sufficiently positioned to insure against losses. I would prefer an amendment that applied to “a business organization having five or more employees.”

Second, a provision was added to Rule 514(b) stating that the maximum amount of claims disbursed on account of any one attorney shall be one million dollars. The Board may, however, request permission of the Supreme Court to exceed this amount when necessary to adequately compensate all victims of the covered attorney, and exceeding the maximum will not unduly burden the Fund. The limit that may be paid to any individual claimant remains at $100,000.

Board’s Communications Features Updated

We try to keep in touch; we really do. The Disciplinary Board has updated several features of our communications media to better provide you with the information you need. Recently, we have made the following updates:

  • The Rules of Professional Conduct on our website, www.padb.us, are now in HTML format rather than PDF, for quicker access.
  • The print size in the new blue booklet version of the Rules of Professional Conduct has been increased, because none of us are getting any younger. You can order them here.
  • If you use a mobile device to access our website, padb.us, you have the option of using the site through a mobile version that is easier to read and use.
  • We hope you’ll follow our Twitter feed @DBoardPa for the latest news from the Disciplinary Board and the Pennsylvania courts. You can even sign up to be notified when we tweet by using push notifications. For information on how to set your device, see this handy guide.

Counting Them Down

The Disciplinary Board has published a chart with the statistics for discipline in 2013. Most of the numbers are down from 2012, except for disbarments, up to 40 from 36 (20 of those by consent). In all, 233 case resolutions included 51 cases of private discipline, 90 of public discipline, and 80 reinstatements granted, two denied. The chart is here.

Lawyer Founds Church to Avoid Sanctions

Minneapolis lawyer William Butler claimed he had no funds available to pay a sanctions judgment of $80,000 imposed by a Federal court for filing frivolous lawsuits, delay tactics, judge-shopping, and making misrepresentations to a court. But a judge found he had income in excess of $1.35 million over an 18-month period, and spent nearly $3,000 in one month on restaurants, meals, liquor, yoga, tanning, kettlebell equipment, pet stores, and Brooks Brothers.

The court found that he concealed income by having his law firm funnel it through a corporation called “The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Austrian Economists.” The church did not have 501(c)(3) status, and though Butler claimed it performed pro bono activities, the Court found its primary function was to provide a debit card on which Butler financed much of his personal expenses. Butler has been suspended from practice before the Minnesota federal court. He remains licensed to practice in the Minnesota courts.

Butler did not return a telephone call or email from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, but on his website, he contends he is being punished for protecting mortgage fraud victims, and calls for the impeachment of the Minnesota Federal District Court bench.

Lawyer’s Flaming Hammer Lights Up Savannah’s Super Bowl Experience

Many of us watch the Super Bowl as much for the ads as for the football game, and sometimes there is a question which is better entertainment.[1] This year marked the 30th anniversary of the most famous Super Bowl ad of all, Apple’s 1984 ad announcing the Macintosh, complete with a flung hammer.[2]

Perhaps the most dramatic ad this year also featured a flung hammer, but only if you live in Savannah, Georgia. In that local market, Savannah lawyer Jamie Casino ran an ad that looked more like a movie trailer. Casino draws on the death of his brother to explain his calling to personal injury work. Somehow this involves a flaming hammer.

While some have expressed criticism of Casino’s spectacular,[3] the production values are certainly a step up from his previous efforts.

At the other end of the cinematic spectrum, there’s this.[4]

Let Us Know

Got a tip, a link, a correction, a question, a comment, an observation, a clarification, a wisecrack, an idea you’d like to see addressed? We are always glad to hear from you. Write us at comments@padisciplinaryboard.org.

[1] Not this year. The ads were definitely better.

[2] In 2004 Apple remastered the ad to show the hammer-wielding heroine wearing an iPod.

[3] Particularly referring to his former criminal law clients as “villains.”

[4] In fairness, Adam Reposa did not air this ad. But he did film it.