Three stories about lawyers who really messed up. The last one will shock you.
We lawyers have been the butt of jokes for generations (the mechanical shark in Jaws was nicknamed “Bruce” after Steven Spielberg’s attorney) and, frankly, sometimes we make it way too easy for the people mocking us.
Item: Alex Jones found out while on the witness stand that his lawyer erroneously sent all of his text messages to opposing counsel, and never in history has a video so desperately called for the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” music in the background:
Hey, pobody’s nerfect, and God knows I’ve made many mistakes in my years of practicing law. Can I really say I’ve never screwed up this badly?
The answer is: yes. Yes, I can definitively say I have never screwed up this badly.
There’s lots of online speculation about how Jones, who surely has the cash to hire any lawyer he wants, wound up with this guy.1 My own thoughts: Jones would not accept legal counsel who might challenge him on major elements of the case, his strategy, and his behavior. Instead he wanted someone who would be a mouthpiece and just go along with whatever he wanted.
Believe me, I’ve had plenty of clients who don’t want you to help them so much as tell them they’re right about everything. Fortunately, they don’t remain clients for very long: either they can’t handle me pushing back and go elsewhere, or I finally tell them I simply cannot work for them if they insist on this boneheaded argument they probably thought up when they saw that Newhart rerun in which Larry, Darryl and Darryl try to represent themselves in court.
Item: a Virginia lawyer found out her client was Jewish and had some thoughts about that, which she decided it would be a great idea to put in writing on her letterhead:
Maryland’s Court of Appeals has indefinitely suspended a Virginia-based lawyer who sent an “antisemitic and highly offensive” letter to a client she was representing in an employment discrimination case.
The lawyer, Amber L. Maiden, disputed the court’s findings and called the decision racist and sexist in an interview.
The 21-page opinion concludes that Maiden used “language that is antisemitic, personally insulting, profane, and otherwise inappropriate” in the letter to her client, a white man who had asked her to join his appeal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in order to win more substantial damages.
After an in-person meeting in late 2019, the relationship between Maiden and the client fell apart, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Matthew Fader wrote in the opinion. Maiden told a hearing judge in her disciplinary case that the client was aggressive and attempted to intimidate her during the in-person meeting.
In an email sent after the meeting, Maiden accused the client of “mistaking her ‘for someone far less intelligent,’ which she said was ‘almost always the case when dealing with white Americans.'”
The client emailed back that he took “great offense” to the accusation. Hours later, Maiden responded with an encrypted 20-page letter that required a password to open. The password was included in her email to the client.
Portions of Maiden’s letter are excerpted in the opinion:
“I can tell you right now, money does not move me, the way it moves you. I would say you are obsessed with it, and that’s very unhealthy. At the risk of offending you, I am going to say, it’s probably because you’re Jewish (I think) and that seems to be a part of your culture, (with the men anyway, the women are different.)”
The letter is laced with profanities and criticizes the client for trying to limit the amount of damages Maiden would receive if the employment discrimination case was successful. Maiden wrote that the anti-discrimination law she was basing the case on was written for her, not for the client’s “white a–.”
The letter goes on: “I know why you’re like this. If you are in fact Jewish, this is a part of your culture, yall Jew boys and that money…you think it’s antisemitic for people to call you out … NO. It is not.”
The client ended Maiden’s representation after receiving the letter, according to the Court of Appeals opinion.
Yeah, that would do it. The good news for Maiden is, I hear Cori Bush might be hiring.
Item: a family and criminal lawyer in Nova Scotia has fallen off the wagon and rejoined Twitter.
There are oversights like accidentally sending key evidence to the other side’s lawyer, and mistakes like putting ethnic slurs in writing, but as bad life choices go, this might be on another level entirely.
“Surely most reputable lawyers would have nothing to with representing a scumbag like Alex Jones,” I hear you saying.
Well, not without a big retainer, no.