This post is coming late in the week because this week marked the first two stops on the Ethics Roadshow for 2018. (If you are in or near Memphis and Nashville you can still register to come attend next week’s stops and hear about a potential recipe for ethical lawyering involving the 5 Cs of Competence, Communication, Candor, Confidentiality and Conflicts.)
This year’s Roadshow doesn’t focus much on threats to the legal profession from developing technologies and outside providers of legal services nearly in the way that last year’s Roadshow did, but today I want to discuss a slightly different kind of threat to the legal profession – threats made my members of our profession.
I’ve written in the recent past about the generalized problems of anger and violence given that we are living in angry times but two recent things I came across (one a full blown story and the other a Twitter thread) lead me to think that a bit of attention should be paid again to threats of violence particularly where the people engaged in the threatening conduct are attorneys.
The ABA Journal, working from a Louisville Courier Journal story, highlighted right at the end of November an arrest of a Kentucky criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer who, it will come as no surprise, is male was arrested and charged with, among other things, terroristic threatening. Perhaps in an effort to just let some irony simmer, the news articles point out that one of the lawyer’s own clients was convicted of terroristic threatening earlier in the same month. The subject of his allegedly terroristic threats were two lawyers involved in the handling of his own child custody case – one was opposing counsel and the other had been appointed by a court to be the guardian ad litem.
The ABA Journal piece highlights the nature of the threats — which ranged from some aggressive voicemail messages to much more tangible examples of actually communicating to third parties an intention to kill the lawyers involved. The article also discusses other recent problems the lawyer has been going through related to those proceedings and published reports of a positive drug test for meth. Even though the lawyer’s conduct doesn’t involve representation of a client, this Kentucky lawyer will likely be at real risk of discipline (in addition to having to deal with the criminal law issues) under a variety of parts of RPC 8.4.
I also managed to stumble onto a thread involving similarly unprofessional and threatening behavior by a lawyer on Twitter. You can peruse the thread here if you’d like to read it yourself. It involves someone who appears to be a Texas lawyer and who, if the fact that he was willing to be a lawyer for (and apparently member of) The Proud Boys (a white supremacist group) in the past wasn’t already a pretty good indication of what kind of fellow he might be, decided to make his feelings plain by going on the attack against a journalist employing a homophobic epithet and a threat of violence sent by email.
As seems like a fairly good option, both for purposes of self-protection and as a way of possible shaming the lawyer involved, the reporter posted a screen shot of the email on Twitter. The email the reporter received read as follows:
Now that I am no longer part of the Proud Boys and no longer representing them. I want to let you know that you are a despicable and evil human being. It is my hope that your duties as a HuffPo reporter bring you to the metroplex this holiday season so that I can give you the gift of a left hook.
Kiss my ass, faggot.
For what it is worth, this particular reporter has been focusing a good bit of time on trying, through reporting, to highlight the problem our country has involving the rise of violent extremists. It appears that shedding some light on this particular lawyer only shows how deep some of those problems go.
Reading these kinds of exchanges also makes me continue to think through questions in my own head – written about in the past — about whether the willingness to be openly racist should simply be disqualifying for lawyers from a character and fitness standpoint.
(P.S. The Twitter thread itself tries to bring this conduct to the attention of Texas disciplinary authorities so it will be interesting to see what comes about. With a little digging, this lawyer appears to have retired his Texas license but also appears to be licensed in Colorado, D.C., and Georgia and appears to have a clean disciplinary record in each of those states.)
(P.P.S. An entirely different reporter received death threats from the same Texas lawyer and also created a thread on Twitter about those exchanges as well.)
(P.P.P. S. BlacKkKlansman is a movie all should see, is germane to the above discussion of the problems of white supremacists in our nation, and I’m thrilled that it is getting some rightly deserved nominations.