Discipline of Attorneys: SC Lawyers’ Oath and Lack of Ellipses in Massachusetts

A South Carolina attorney has been suspended for 90 days from the practice of law for a letter sent to his church’s landlord, a letter which he copied to the previously adverse Town’s manager and the Town’s attorney. For those who think that they can say anything and everything that comes to their mind, read this: http://www.sccourts.org/opinions/displayOpinion.cfm?caseNo=26939 (S.C. Sup Ct.; filed 3/7/2011). There are times when we need to write something and let it sit before we mail it (or hit the button in this electronic age). This is an obvious case, where the allegations against the attorney are that he made “statements questioning whether [the town manager] has a soul, saying that he has no brain, calling the leadership of the Town pagans and insane and pigheaded violates his professional obligations, which include his obligation to provide competent representation to his clients; his obligation under Rule 4.4 to treat third parties in a way that doesn’t embarrass them; Rule 8.4 to behave in a way that doesn’t prejudice the administration of justice; and also the letter was not in conformity with his obligations under his oath of office, Rule 402(k) [the Lawyers' Oath].” So, folks, think before you mail something, whether in an e-mail or (as here) in a letter.

You will note that I used brackets above to show my changes to the quote from the court. Good segue to the Massachusetts discipline for an attorney who failed to use ellipses (which are three periods to show that something has been left out). There, an attorney for Pella Windows in an appeal seemingly quoted all of a judge’s Order, but left out some critical portions of it without using ellipses. The Court called it “as brazen a piece of misrepresentation as we have ever seen.” Here is a summary: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2011/03/a-recent-public-reprimand-is-summarized-on-the-web-page-of-the-massachusetts-board-of-bar-overseers.html

Again, be careful when you are writing, whether it is your first time or not.

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About MaxLaw843

Max is an attorney and a member of Grimball & Cabaniss, LLC where he has practiced litigation since 1987, concentrating in construction, personal injury, and business litigation. He also has handled quite a number of appellate cases. In the community, he is past president of the Scottish Society of Charleston, Inc. and is on the finance committee of Bethel United Methodist Church.
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