March 2011 #4. Raising the Bar in Ethics.

Author:by Janet S. Hunt, Chief Disciplinary Counsel
 
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Hawaii Bar Journal

2011.

March 2011 #4.

Raising the Bar in Ethics

Hawaii State Bar JournalMarch 2011Raising the Bar in EthicsDisciplinary Counsel's Report: 2010 Annual Statistical Summaryby Janet S. Hunt, Chief Disciplinary CounselThe Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") presents its 2010 annual statistical summary.

During 2010, 347 new grievances were received, 89 of which met the current docketing standard.

Of the 89 complaints docketed in 2010, commission of a crime was the largest complaint area. The next largest complaint categories were failure to deposit in trust account, abandonment, neglect, and incompetence.

Clients are the largest source of complaints, followed by ODC and attorneys.

During 2010, 107 docketed complaints were closed, 37% of which resulted in the imposition of public discipline. In all, three Hawaii lawyers were publicly disciplined during the ye a r, one was disbarred , and one resigned in lieu of discipline (resolving 39 complaints). In addition, 2 2 6 "undocketed" cases were closed under the new system.

ODC additio n ally handled 11 ongoing trusteeships as well as six reinstatement proceedings.

The 2010 annual statistical report follows:

ODC STATISTICAL REPORT FOR 2010

I. COMPLAINTS DOCKETED BY SUBJECT CATEGORY

  1. PERFORMANCE

    1. Abandonment.............................................

      7

    2. Abusiveness .................................................

      0

    3. Neglect (phone calls, letters, etc.)................

      6

    4. Incompetence ..............................................

      6

    5. Misrepresentations to client ........................

      2

    6. Misrepresentations to others .......................

      1

    7. Improper withdrawal from employment ....

      0

    8. Improper disclosure of confidential Information .............

      1

    9. Conflict of interest ......................................

      4

    10. Improper contact with opposing party .....

      2

    11. Other.........................................................

      3

      32

  2. FEES

    1. Excessive fees

      ..............................................

      1

    2. Failure to return unearned portion .............

      2

    3. Improper referral fees .................................

      0

    4. Fee dispute, no unethical conduct ..............

      0

    5. Other...........................................................

      2

      5

  3. FUNDS AND PROPERTY

    1. Commingling ..............................................

      2

    2. Conversion

      ..................................................

      4

    3. Failure to account .......................................

      4

    4. Failure to deposit in trust account ..............

      8

    5. Failure to maintain records .........................

      0

    6. Failure to promptly pay out ........................

      4

    7. Withdrawal of funds in dispute ..................

      2

    8. Improper payment to client ........................

      1

    9. Improper assertion of lien on client's property ......................................................

      0

    10. Failure to promptly deliver property .........

      1

    11. Other.........................................................

      0

      26

  4. SOLICITATION

    1. In-Person Solicitation ..................................

      0

    2. Direct Mail Solicitation ...............................

      0

    3. Other..........................................................

      0

      0

  5. ADVERTISING

    1. False, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading ..

      2

    2. Specialization ..............................................

      0

    3. Other...........................................................

      0

      2

  6. INTERFERENCE WITH JUSTICE

    1. Advising violation of law ............................

      0

    2. Appeal in bad faith .....................................

      0

    3. Advising witness to hide, suppression of evidence, bribing witness ............................

      1

    4. Aiding unlawful practice of law ..................

      3

    5. Disobedience of court order .......................

      0

    6. Disrespect of court ......................................

      0

    7. Gifts to officials ...........................................

      0

    8. Harassment, claim not warranted ..............

      0

    9. Misrepresentations to court ........................

      3

    10. Threaten criminal prosecution .................

      1

    11. Abuse of process (sham or groundless lawsuits, etc.) ..............................................

      1

    12. Prosecutorial misconduct ..........................

      0

    13. Improper contact with tribunal ................

      0

    14. Use of perjured testimony or false evidence

      ....................................................

      0

    15. Improper trial publicity .............................

      0

    16. Other.........................................................

      1

      10

  7. FRAUD

    1. Scheme to defraud ......................................

      3

    2. Other...........................................................

      0

      3

  8. PERSONAL BEHAVIOR AND CRIMES

    1. Commission of crime .................................

      9

    2. Failure to honor agreement or stipulation ..

      1

    3. Offensive language or actions .....................

      0

    4. Extortion or intimidation ............................

      0

    5. Coercion to obtain payment/fee................

      1

    6. Abusive collection practices ........................

      0

    7. Failure to pay bills (court reporters; expert witnesses, etc.) ..................................

      0

    8. Other...........................................................

      0

      11

      TOTAL COMPLAINTS DOCKETED

      IN 2010..........................................................89

      II. COMPLAINT SOURCES

    9. Clients ........................................................

      47

    10. Attorneys .....................................................

      4

    11. Judges

      ..........................................................

      1

    12. Court Reporters ..........................................

      0

    13. Bar Association ...........................................

      3

    14. Office of Disciplinary Counsel ..................

      14

    15. Attorney General ........................................

      2

    16. Other Governmental Agencies ...................

      3

    17. Opposing Party ...........................................

      3

    18. Anonymous ...............................................

      0

    19. Member of the Public ..............................

      3

    20. Other.........................................................

      9

      TOTAL COMPLAINTS..............................

      89

      III. NUMBER OF ATTORNEYS COMPLAINED AGAINST BY NUMBER OF YEARS IN PRACTICE

      Number of Years In Practice

      Number of Attorneys

      Less than 1 - 5 years..........................................

      6

      6 - 10 years ......................................................

      3

      11 - 15 years....................................................

      11

      16 - 20 years....................................................

      14

      21 - 25 years ....................................................

      11

      26 - 31+ years...................................................

      26

      Pro Hac Vice Admittees...................................

      0

      TOTAL 71

      IV.NUMBER OF ATTORNEYS COMPLAINED AGAINST BY NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS PER ATTORNEY

      No. of Attorneys with 1 complaint:

      78

      No. of Attorneys with 2 complaints:

      8

      No. of Attorneys with 3 complaints:

      1

      No. of Attorneys with 4 complaints:

      1

      No. of...

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