- Your Editor is pleased that further damage to the judicial process is avoided. Howerver, the coercive tactics used by the Bay State bar advocates were unjustified and unethical, and took far less courage when done as part of a conspiracy than if each lawyer had indeed made an individual decision. Let’s hope that this quick success does not motivate the assigned counsel to try another group boycott — or implicit threat of such — to get its primary goal of significantly raised fees. Raising the fees is a worthwhile goal, but the means used by officers of the court need to be lawful and ethical from now on.
August 19, 2003
Pease said she believes she did not need permission from the girl’s mother since the interview was initiated at the girl’s request.
When asked about Dotson’s comments concerning potential charges, Pease responded, “I’d like to see him try to interfere with my duty to defend my client.” Pease said she has an ethical obligation to her client to defend him, and she believes she did nothing wrong. The attorney said she is angry Dotson would even suggest charges, or that there was impropriety on her part.
Editor’s Note: It has been clear all along that the issue here was when rather than if the bar advocates would be paid. Rather than individually deciding, in effect, whether to continue to take cases while extending further credit to the State, the group refusal to accept new cases until payment is a coercive attempt to force immediate payment by the State — a group refusal to extend further credit to the State, backed up by a refusal to deal with the Buyer until it complies. This is a classic, naked restraint of trade under the antitrust law.
”I care very much how much they get paid. But I also have a responsibility as an officer of the court to help with the administration of justice.”
However, the article explains that “lawyers who were on strike lambasted Greenberg for undercutting their efforts” (emphasis added):
”He’s not trained to do this kind of work,” said lawyer Anthony R. Ellison, as he stood outside on the steps of the courthouse. ”He’s acting as a scab. I want him to explain to my kids why their daddy is not getting paid.”
Sadly, rather than insisting that the boycotting lawyers end their unlawful activity and stop pressuring lawyers willing to take cases, affected judges voiced sympathy and frustration. One even felt the pain of the boycotting bar advocates:
”I think the lawyers are finding this very painful,” Judge Edward Redd said as he sat in his chambers at the Roxbury courthouse with Judges Milton Wright and Paul Leary. ”I think it’s analogous to doctors not being able to help somebody in need.”
This editor is wiping the tears from his eyes as he types this final paragraph. Rather than face a few additional weeks of delay in receiving full pay (a risk every assigned lawyer across the nation faces), the boycotters have disrupted the courts, ignored their ethical duties, and flouted antitrust law. They should explain that to their children.
P.S. The Boston Herald, also covered the boycott today, with an article headlined ”Public defense lawyers strike” (Aug. 19, 2003, by David Weber). The Herald states that “The tactic seemed to work,” but noted
“The budget bill, however, does not include a rate hike for the lawyers, which they have been seeking for years. Private attorneys can get from $125 per hour to $600 per hour for a criminal case.”
In addition, the Herald‘s opinion page displayed a well-phrased editorial captioned “A Double Standard on Fees and Bills,” which begins with the sentence, “Ah, here’s to the power of a well-timer hissy-fit,” and which goes on to decry the unfairly low fees received by assigned counsel, and notes:
By contrast when the state Department of Housing and Community Development goes out and hires outside private counsel, such as Palmer & Dodge, it pays from $267 to $437 an hour, according to a recent article in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
Less than a day after The Boston Globe described the frustration and angst that is rampant among members of the legal profession [as reported yesterday in our posting, 8/18/03], the Law.Com Newswire reports that “The nation’s law schools are getting crowded. Admissions jumped 9 percent for this year’s class, while applications climbed 17 percent, according to data from the Law School Admissions Council cited by the Providence Business News.” (PBN.com, “Local Law Schools face record application levels,” by David Ortiz, August 19, 2003) [How Appealing also points to a similar article this morning in the Orlando Sentinel headlined “Law School’s Hot,” 8/19/03) e (Aug. 19, 2003) in the Orlando Sentinel, saying that “Law
Earthlings, Be Worried. The PBN.com article speculates that
The high attraction could likely be attributed to a bad economy, the recent spate of corporate scandals and a surging interest in the profession by a generation weaned on law-related TV shows.
Apparently, children of baby boomers (you remember Boomers, the idealistic ones who were going to make the world a better place and raise a new generation to carry the torch) are going to law school because:
- the economy is down — which, I guess, makes law school again the academic default choice, holding pattern, or Lotto Ticket;
- they prefer law over business school, because, in the words of Robert Ward, dean of Southern New England School of Law, that “one can run a business with a law degree, but you’re also a lawyer so you’re less likely to go to jail.” And,
- they have a less negative view of lawyers and the profession than prior generations — due, in part, to having been “socialized on very legally oriented television shows, in a massive way, . . . ‘Law and Order,’ ‘The Practice,’ ‘Ally McBeal.’”
Is this good news for consumers of legal services? Are these the fertile grounds from which legal ethics will be revitalized and the consumer will rise to be sovereign in the legal marketplace? Some might argue that a greater glut of lawyers will increase the chances that competition will bring down fees and expand choices to consumers. Historically, however, increasing the supply of lawyers has never seemed to bring Americans the benefits of greater competition.
More likely, a guild that can’t limit the supply of its members will struggle to increase the demand for their services and to block nonmembers (nonlawyers) from the marketplace. Expect further efforts, therefore, to stifle the Self-Help Law movement and to expand the definition of Unauthorized Practice of Law. And, expect that ethicalEsq? and mental health practitioners will be busier than ever.