Click here for Done Deal Pro home page

Done Deal Pro Home Page

Loading

Go Back   Done Deal Pro Forums > General > Research and Resources
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 03-14-2012, 10:40 AM   #1
kintnerboy
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: NYC
Posts: 1,477
Default Civil court procedure

Hi all,

I have a question regarding civil court procedure. I am writing a comedy about an ambulance-chasing personal injury attorney, who gets into a bit of trouble via his unethical practices.

I do not want him to be disbarred. I need to create a scenario whereby a judge (or other governing body) punishes him to an extent that he can no longer represent personal injury cases, so that he has to go from living off punitive settlements to grinding it out for his hourly rate.

I know that judges have a great deal of latitude about how they run their courtrooms, but does anyone know the process, or the hierarchy or the vocabulary of the disciplinary process for civil litigators?

This does not have to be true. Just plausible within the guidelines of a broad comedy.

Thanks to anyone who can help.
kintnerboy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-14-2012, 01:43 PM   #2
ScriptGal
Regular
 
ScriptGal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 293
Default Re: Civil court procedure

I'm not sure exactly how it works, but perhaps as punishment the judge assigns him to represent a pro-bono criminal case(s). This wouldn't work for civil (I don't believe any defendant is entitled to free reps in civil matters.)

There are firms that do handle pro bono civil matters. I suppose the judge could assign him to work with one of the those firms, perhaps he has a nemesis there....
__________________
ScriptGal
Screenplay Consultation & Analysis
Fifteen Years Development Experience
http://www.scriptgal.com/

Discount for DD Members!
ScriptGal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-14-2012, 01:58 PM   #3
NikeeGoddess
User
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 7,211
Default Re: Civil court procedure

i think the judge does not have that kind of power... unless the lawyer works for the city or county as a public defender or prosecutor. however, i think what would work (and be funny) is if that ambulance-chasing lawyer was caught on some kind of "gotcha" tv show where he was actually staging evidence for his clients so they could win the law suits. then he could have a suit against him and part of the judgement was that, in order for him to retain his law license that he could not longer taker personal injury lawsuits... like a "stay-away" order.
NikeeGoddess is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-14-2012, 02:06 PM   #4
Manchester
Member
 
Manchester's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 2,247
Default Re: Civil court procedure

As a matter of reality, what you're suggesting would not ever happen - i.e., AFAIK a state bar would never tell a lawyer he could handle anything but contingency cases. Besides, lots of cheating happens when billing by the hour.

That said, I think it's possible to set up that scenario in a workable way for a comedy.

I have an idea for you, but kintnerboy, it would help to know what kind of cases the lawyer ends up handling in your story.
Manchester is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-14-2012, 03:18 PM   #5
kintnerboy
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: NYC
Posts: 1,477
Default Re: Civil court procedure

Thanks for the replies so far.

To give you more of a background, the idea I had was for this unethical lawyer to be sanctioned by some kind of office of professional conduct of the state bar association [actually, that sounds like a real thing when I type it out like that... maybe I will just make it up and who would know better?] to the point where he was no longer allowed to represent people in any way -no personal injury, no jury awards- for a period of like one year. Just property cases, like a neighbors tree fell on a fence and they want $600.

Ultimately, he discovers that people's pets are considered property, and he starts taking these absurd cases involving animals; bad dog hair cuts, veterinary malpractice, a hawks right to nest in a co-op building, etc.

He finds that it's even easier to manipulate juries into awarding punitive damages, because most people love animals more than other people.

Ultimately, I might just write this as a legal satire about a pet lawyer.

I just thought it would be better to establish him as one of those sleazeballs you see on late night commercials first.
kintnerboy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-14-2012, 04:06 PM   #6
Manchester
Member
 
Manchester's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 2,247
Default Re: Civil court procedure

IMO, forget involving the state bar or some bar committee. Have you seen "My Cousin Vinny"? You could set things up kinda like that.

A/the judge tells the lawyer, "That's it! Now, I would send you before the disciplinary committee, but you'd just weasel your way out. So here's the deal..."

Among other things, doing it that way provides a single character (versus a bar committee) as the lawyer's nemesis. And it gives you a way to do an exposition-dump about all the sleazy things this lawyer has done: The judge dresses down the lawyer, "And you did this... And that... Right?"

After the judge bans him from handling some sorts of cases, the lawyer might reply, in effect, "Oh, yeh?! And what if I take those sorts of cases anyway?" The judge says, "You don't want to find out." The lawyer replies, "You know, you're not the only judge in this courthouse..." The judge smirks, opens his door, and the two (?) other judges in the courthouse enter and show solidarity.

FYI: Sure, trial court judges can be overturned on appeal, but they have lots of ways they can screw a lawyer's case that pretty much can't be appealed - and lawyers know that. Judges can and do take lawyers aside and say, "I think the deal the other side is offering is not so bad. You might want to spend some more time explaining the full ramifications of that deal to your client." IOW, if your client doesn't agree to settle, I'm gonna give you a tough time at trial. Of course, that reality isn't essential to a comedy, but I thought it might help put your story together.

Anyway, FWIW.
Manchester is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-14-2012, 05:16 PM   #7
Mac H.
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,902
Default Re: Civil court procedure

There's a great interview with the writer of 'My Cousin Vinnie' here:

http://abnormaluse.com/2012/03/abnor...le-launer.html

He goes into how he wrote the courtroom scenes .. and even his credit arbitration battle with Blake Edwards.

Mac
(Oops - I originally had Blake Snyder instead. Thanks Paul)

Last edited by Mac H. : 03-15-2012 at 04:33 PM.
Mac H. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-15-2012, 06:42 AM   #8
Scriptonian
User
 
Scriptonian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 142
Default Re: Civil court procedure

Lawyers' disbarment committees come under the jurisdiction of the state's supreme court. If an attorney isn't fit to practice one kind of law s/he isn't fit to practice any sort of law under the model rules adopted by most states. There is no partial disbarment.

However, an attorney (just as happened to Vincent LaGuardia Gambini) can easily be found 'in contempt of court' for which the judge in the case imposes the sanctions, which can include almost anything. Here is the opportunity for humor - not if the case the lawyer brings is frivolous or fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted (because in that situation the lawsuit would be dismissed with the lawyer maybe paying court costs, opposing counsel fees, and fined), but for courtroom antics in cases that have some justification, such as barking to show that dogs have feelings, letting loose a hawk in the courtroom to prove a point that hawks don't harm anyone, bringing his/her cat to court (special needs), wearing a (live) rattlesnake-skin suit to court, etc., etc.

The judge, after finding the lawyer in contempt of court, could sentence the lawyer to community service at the local animal shelter where the lawyer sees first-hand the real plight of animals (or decides s/he doesn't like animals) - or, conversely, to the apartment complex to clean up after the hawks making home there.

Animals/pets are 'personal' not 'real' property. To the extent legislated (or able to be gained in court) they have (few) rights. Do whales deserve constitutional protection against slavery? On February 8, 2012 a federal judge said 'no,' stopping a historic case filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against SeaWorld for violating the 13th Amendment on slavery. Five orcas were listed as the plaintiffs. Other cases on different grounds are ripe.

Lots of comedic possibility! Good luck with the script.

The following is found about disbarment on Wikipedia:

Disbarment is the removal of a lawyer from a bar association or the practice of law, thus revoking his or her law license or admission to practice law. Procedures vary depending on the law society.

Generally disbarment is imposed as a sanction for conduct indicating that an attorney is not fit to practice law, willfully disregarding the interests of a client, or engaging in fraud which impedes the administration of justice. In addition, any lawyer who is convicted of a felony is automatically disbarred in most jurisdictions, a policy that, although opposed by the American Bar Association, has been described as a convicted felon's just deserts.

In the United States legal system, disbarment is specific to regions; one can be disbarred from some courts, while still being a member of the bar in another jurisdiction. However, under the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which have been adopted in most states, disbarment in one state or court is grounds for disbarment in a jurisdiction which has adopted the Model Rules.

Disbarment is quite rare. Instead, lawyers are usually sanctioned by their own clients through civil malpractice proceedings, or via fine, censure, suspension, or other punishments from the disciplinary boards. To be disbarred is considered a great embarrassment and shame, even if one no longer wishes to pursue a career in the law; it is akin, in effect, to a dishonorable discharge in a military situation.

Because disbarment rules vary by area, different rules can apply depending on where a lawyer is disbarred. Notably, the majority of US states have no procedure for permanently disbarring a person. Depending on the jurisdiction, a lawyer may reapply to the bar immediately, after five to seven years, or be banned for life.

Notable U.S. disbarments
The 20th and the 21st centuries have seen one former U.S. president and one former U.S. vice president disbarred, and another president suspended from one bar and caused to resign from another bar rather than face disbarment. Former Vice President Spiro Agnew, having pleaded no contest (which subjects a person to the same criminal penalties as a guilty plea, but is not an admission of guilt for a civil suit) to charges of bribery and tax evasion, was disbarred from Maryland, the state of which he had previously been governor. Former President Richard Nixon was disbarred from New York in 1976 for obstruction of justice related to the Watergate scandal.

In 2000 the Arkansas Supreme Court's Committee on Professional Conduct called for the disbarment of President Bill Clinton, saying he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. In January 2001 Clinton reached an agreement under which he was ordered to pay $25,000 in fines to Arkansas state's bar officials and his Arkansas law license was suspended for five years. The agreement came on the condition that Whitewater prosecutors would not pursue federal perjury charges against him. Clinton was suspended by the Supreme Court in October 2001, and, facing disbarment from that court, Clinton resigned from the Supreme Court bar in November.

Alger Hiss was disbarred for a felony conviction, but later became the first person reinstated to the bar in Massachusetts after disbarment. In 2007, Mike Nifong, the District Attorney of Durham County, North Carolina who presided over the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case, was disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct related to his handling of the case.

Jack Thompson, the Florida lawyer noted for his activism against video games, was permanently disbarred for various charges of misconduct. The action was the result of several grievances claiming that Thompson had made defamatory, false statements and attempted to humiliate, embarrass, harass or intimidate his opponents. The order was made on September 25, 2008, effective October 25. However, Thompson attempted to appeal to the higher courts in order to avoid the penalty actually taking effect. Neither the US District court, nor the US Supreme Court would hear his appeal, rendering the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court final. Ed ***an, a New York lawyer who prominently represented Holocaust victims against Swiss banks, was disbarred in New York (in 2008) and New Jersey (in 2009) for failing to pay court fines and fees; and for misappropriating client and escrow trust funds.

F. Lee Bailey, noted criminal defense attorney in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, was disbarred by the state of Florida in 2001, with reciprocal disbarment in Massachusetts in 2002. The Florida disbarment was the result of his handling of stock in the DuBoc marijuana case. Bailey was found guilty of 7 counts of attorney misconduct by the Florida Supreme Court. Bailey had transferred a large portion of DuBoc's assets into his own accounts, using the interest gained on those assets to pay for personal expenses. In March 2005, Bailey filed to regain his law license in Massachusetts. The book Florida Pulp Nonfiction details the peculiar facts of the DuBoc case along with extended interviews with Bailey that include his own defense.

Last edited by Scriptonian : 03-15-2012 at 07:02 AM.
Scriptonian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-15-2012, 08:08 AM   #9
Paul Striver
Regular
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 373
Default Re: Civil court procedure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac H. View Post
and even his credit arbitration battle with Blake Snyder.
Blake Edwards, not Snyder.

.
Paul Striver is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-15-2012, 08:37 AM   #10
kintnerboy
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: NYC
Posts: 1,477
Default Re: Civil court procedure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scriptonian View Post
However, an attorney (just as happened to Vincent LaGuardia Gambini) can easily be found 'in contempt of court' for which the judge in the case imposes the sanctions, which can include almost anything.

Animals/pets are 'personal' not 'real' property. To the extent legislated (or able to be gained in court) they have (few) rights.


Thanks for the info. It looks like I would be better off just having my lawyer have a series of run-ins with a particular judge.

But what would stop him from just trying his cases in front of other judges? I'll have to come up with a contrivance to keep them tied together. [edit- perhaps I will come up with a variation of Manchester's idea re. solidarity... but I do picture this as being in Manhattan versus a smaller city. Lots of judges.]

There is precedence of large punitive awards going to pet owners, which far exceed the fair market value of the animals as property, so I feel like I can exploit the vagueness of the laws for my purposes.

http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/jur...-in-dogs-death


Thanks to everyone.

Last edited by kintnerboy : 03-15-2012 at 09:05 AM.
kintnerboy is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:03 PM.


Powered by vBulletin Version 3.6.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Done Deal Pro

eXTReMe Tracker