Oregon Approves Paralegal Licensure
The Supreme Court of Oregon has approved a set of rules
to allow licensing of paralegals to practice in limited areas of the law. Oregon becomes the fifth state
to allow some sort of paralegal licensing, following Washington, Utah, Arizona, and Minnesota.
Paralegals will be allowed to provide limited services
in seven areas of the law without the supervision of a lawyer: dissolution of marriage, separation and annulment, custody and parenting time, child and spousal support, remedial contempt, landlord/tenant, and forcible entry and wrongful detainer. Services permitted include meeting, contracting with, and advising clients; drafting and filing documents; performing discovery; attending (but not representing clients in) court hearings and depositions; and preparing clients for court hearings and depositions. Licensed paralegals may not appear or argue in court proceedings.
Licensed paralegals will be required to meet continuing legal education requirements, maintain IOLTA accounts where necessary, pay into the Client Security Fund, and carry malpractice insurance.
Applicants must pass a character and fitness review and meet minimum educational and experience requirements and pass an entrance exam. Licensed paralegals will be bound by the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct for Licensed Paralegals
which closely parallel the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers.
New York Lawyer Suspended for In-Court Cell Phone Photos
A New York lawyer was suspended
for six months on a reciprocal basis after a Federal Court suspended him for taking unauthorized cell phone photos in a courtroom.
The Court found
that Michael Anthony Deem used his cell phone to take photos and videos of a person who he believed was conspiring with the defendant to hide bankruptcy assets in the Federal courtroom before the judge took the bench. A rule of court prohibited the taking of photographs or videos in the courtroom. When a court security officer confronted him, he claimed he did not realize the phone was in video rather than still-photo mode. A member of the court’s Security Committee revoked his Attorney Service Pass and referred the matter to the court’s Committee on Grievances. The Committee on Grievances suspended him for six months, finding him “far more dismissive than he is apologetic.”
Deem then embarked on a series of lawsuits against state and Federal judges, alleging that his suspension was retaliation against him for disclosing corrupt practices in the New York State court system.
In response to the state court’s rule to show cause, Deem filed an “affirmation” arguing that the state’s attorney licensing system was unconstitutional and making further accusations against various state court judges on matters arising from his federal lawsuits and domestic relations cases. The Court rejected all these defenses and found that a suspension for six months was warranted.
Lawyer Disbarred after Practicing from Jail
An Oklahoma lawyer was disbarred
after he attempted to keep practicing from his prison cell, following his conviction for assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
In an Order
dated June 28, 2022, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma disbarred attorney Jay Silvernail. The order was based in part on Silvernail’s conviction for shooting a man in an altercation outside a bar. Silvernail claimed that he fired in defense of himself and another person. The jury found him guilty but recommended a sentence of two and one-half years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine for an offense that could have resulted in life imprisonment. The Court found that several alternative courses of action open to Silvernail and that his “extremely poor choice” adversely reflected on his fitness to practice law.
The Court also found as an aggravating factor that Silvernail attempted to continue his legal practice from jail after his imprisonment. Through telephone calls to his mother, daughter, and brother, he tried to monitor open cases, manage the firm's accounts, and arrange for fellow attorneys to stand in for him and seek continuances on pending matters. Silvernail estimated that he had sixty to seventy active cases. In one call, Silvernail told his mother to deposit any checks received from clients directly into his operating account, rather than his client trust account. The Court found that he believed that so long as he could find attorneys to stand in for him at hearings, he could operate his practice as a sort of general manager and could take on new clients as well. The Court concluded that Silvernail was not acting in his clients' best interests, and that he placed his own financial motives first. It cited obstacles to effective representation from a jail cell including inability to confer with clients confidentially, communicate freely with prosecutors or other opposing counsel, appear in court on his clients' behalf, or access legal resources, a computer, or even his own files. The Court also concluded practicing from prison gives the appearance of impropriety.
The Court rejected an agreed recommendation that Silvernail be suspended for two years and one day. It concluded, “Silvernail resorted to deadly force in circumstances that did not justify such a response. He then placed his own financial interests above the interests of his clients, by trying to keep his practice on life support while he awaited sentencing. We believe Silvernail's behavior demonstrates his inability to provide the kind of judgment expected of a lawyer.” Accordingly, Silvernail was disbarred.
California Bar Files Disciplinary Charges Against Its Former Executive Director
The State Bar of California has filed disciplinary charges against its former Executive Director. The notice of charges
filed July 5 against Joseph L. Dunn, who was fired from the position of Executive Director in 2014, alleges that Dunn made false and misleading claims in his capacity as executive director to the state bar’s Board of Trustees.
The notice alleges that Dunn urged the Board of Trustees to support a bill to allow the bar to seek civil penalties for the unauthorized practice of law and falsely told them the bill had no opposition. In fact, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court had expressed concerns about the legislation.
The notice alleges that, on another occasion, Dunn told the Board that no state funds were used for a trip to Mongolia to assist in setting up a lawyer oversight process. In fact, the state had expended $7,000 for the trip of which $5,000 was later reimbursed by a law firm.
A lawyer for Dunn denies
the charges and argues that the bar’s prosecution involves a conflict of interest. A former assistant chief prosecutor Dunn had fired later became the administrator overseeing Dunn’s discipline case. The Bar contends that the administrator recused himself from any involvement in Dunn’s case.
Dog Defender Doesn’t Care Whether You Like Him
Americans love dogs. We love people who fight for dogs. Lawyers who litigate against puppy mills and abusive pet stores are heroes. But one lawyer has been attacked for his work on behalf of dogs. And he doesn’t care.
Richard Rosenthal is a dog lawyer
. He handles dog custody cases and sues veterinary clinics for malpractice. But he also represents bad dogs. Specifically, he has developed a specialty in defending dangerous dogs threatened with euthanasia after hurting people. Sometimes this garners him a lot of ill will.
He represented Onion, a 120-pound mastiff-Rhodesian ridgeback mix, who killed his owner’s one-year-old grandson after the child stumbled and startled the sleeping dog. Rosenthal and a local lawyer argued that the dog was not vicious but had reacted the way any animal might when startled. The case went to the Nevada Supreme Court. The family was divided as Onion’s owner was strongly attached to Onion and wanted him spared even though he had killed her grandson. Eventually, the county dropped the case rather than force the grieving family to appear in court, and Onion was sent to a rescue sanctuary in another state, a disposition Rosenthal calls a “get-out-of-town-by-sundown order.” His work in the case earned Rosenthal a lot of negative reaction. "With Onion, we got hate mail,” he said. “We got death threats.”
Rosenthal has appeared in many states fighting the killing of dogs deemed to be dangerous. In 2009, he and his wife, Robin Mittasch, founded the Lexus Project, a nonprofit that provides legal representation for dogs ordered to be euthanized. It was named after the central character in his first dangerous dog case, Lexus, a greyhound faced with execution after killing a Pomeranian in a dog park. He quickly encountered demand for his services. Later he and another animal lawyer, Thompson Page, created the Center for Animal Litigation, a nonprofit network of lawyers that, like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, works pro bono on animal cases around the country. In addition to providing legal representation for threatened canines, they also work to reform animal control systems. They argue that animal control officers, often scorned as “dogcatchers,” tend to be an underpaid, undertrained corps. “We want animal control officers to actually have training in dog behavior so they understand why and when dogs fight,” Page said.
In addition to their legal work, Rosenthal and Mittasch are active in volunteer work especially within the greyhound adoption community. Rosenthal, a licensed pilot, tells stories of using his personal aircraft to transport dozens of dogs from shelters to adopters.
Rosenthal is not particularly concerned with the legal question of whether animals should be granted legal personhood, a major theme in many animal law circles. He bases his arguments mainly on property law concepts. For him, the urgency in most of his cases is to save a life rather than establish a legal concept. “The difference is, in my cases, there is a dog or cat that’s going to die if I don’t win,” he said. “So to me, I need to win the case.”
Need Law Jokes? We Got ‘Em
If your supply of law jokes is getting low, this collection
might provide you with some new material. There are only a few we have heard before.