Sanctions against Rudy Giuliani and other lawyers for the rejected electoral fraud lawsuits aimed at keeping Donald Trump in power dominated the headlines of Bloomberg Law’s legal ethics for 2021.
The pandemic’s effect on the mental health of female lawyers, actions on legal action disclosures and the death of an ethics pioneer also made the list of top articles.
Special reports on the potential ethical pitfalls facing lawyers practicing cannabis law and the lack of comprehensive data on how disciplinary bodies and assistance programs tackle the problem of dementia and aging lawyers are also presented.
Former Trump attorney and New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was temporarily suspended by a New York state appeals court in June for “making false and misleading statements in court” about the results of the 2020 presidential election. Ethics experts called the interim suspension “surprising” and “relatively rare”.
Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and others were ordered to pay more than $ 175,000 in penalties in December for filing a frivolous lawsuit in Michigan following the election. United States District Judge Linda Parker called the trial a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.” The lawyers appealed.
A bipartisan bill that would require the federal judiciary to publish financial information online and create stricter disclosure rules easily gained US House approval in December.
The legislation was introduced after a Wall Street Journal report found that 131 judges had heard cases in which they or a family member had shares in a company involved in the case. The Senate has yet to act on similar legislation.
Mental health disparity
Overworked female lawyers experience more mental health problems and consume more high-risk alcohol than their male colleagues, according to a survey of nearly 3,000 lawyers in California and the District of Columbia.
the to study published in May by the California Lawyers Association and the DC Law Society found that more women tested positive for unsafe drinking than in the past. About a third, or 34%, reported high-risk or unsafe drinking, compared to 25.4% of men. This is a snapshot showing a trend reversal, generally finding that men are addicted to drugs more frequently.
Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode was known for her passion to improve access to justice, and her unexpected death in January left a void in the legal ethics community. law professor at Georgetown University David J. Luban called her “the most influential person on legal ethics in the country”, if not in the world.
Rhode’s Stanford Law biography noted that she was the most frequently cited legal ethics expert in the country. Her fellowship also focused on gender issues and feminism, as well as leadership – how to train effective leaders in the workplace and in society. She is the author of 30 books.
Remote work and ethics
More lawyers will work in jurisdictions where they are not licensed after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, and all lawyers will need to familiarize themselves with the technology needed to practice virtually.
These are just two ways the pandemic has prompted a rethinking of the ethical rules governing the practice of lawyers. Some old rules preserved for ethical or business reasons no longer make sense while others have attracted new attention, according to legal ethics experts.
In February, former Willkie Farr & Gallagher chairman Gordon Caplan was suspended for two years, retroactively to November 2019, for his role in the U.S. college admissions scandal known as the Varsity Blues.
Caplan pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy to pay $ 75,000 to correct his daughter’s college entrance exam results. He spent a month in prison. A New York appeals court said the sanction “properly balances the respondent’s criminal conduct with substantial mitigating evidence.”
Ethics, Cannabis law
Ethical and legal issues abound for attorneys representing clients in the cannabis industry in the growing number of states where weed is legal, requiring additional due diligence to ensure compliance, lawyers familiar with the law have told Bloomberg Law. with the rapid evolution of the sector.
The land mine is a federal law, which still prohibits the pot. This forces lawyers to monitor ethical requirements and regulatory developments even more closely, and to refine their focus on clients as companies plan to expand in the space. Taxation, trade, intellectual property, local licensing, employment and environmental law are areas to watch.
Lawyers specializing in dementia and aging
Recent comprehensive data on how often disciplinary bodies and lawyer assistance programs are faced with the problem of dementia and aging lawyers is lacking, and there is no way to know how often colleagues intervene without the help of a professional organization.
Over the past decade, the number of lawyers over 65 has increased by more than 50%. In 2020, about 14% of American lawyers were over 65, compared to 7% of general workers. During this time, more than one in nine people over 65 are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. The risk increases dramatically with age.
—With Madison Alder, Joyce Cutler and Holly Barker