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Top 10 Scary Legal Myths for Attorneys

By Caleb Groos | Last updated on

Myth #10: Finally, with the banking and mortgage mess, we've had a crisis that won't be blamed on the lawyers.

As evidenced by emergency warning from the California State Bar, it appears that more than a few of the less scrupulous members of our profession have found ways to prey on those in desperate need. Who says lawyers are blood-suckers?

Respect for the profession, combined with ethical rules barring relationships that create conflicts of interest, seem reason enough to abstain. If not, perhaps a $1.5 million jury verdict on tort and contract claims will make it crystal clear.

Myth #8: The smoking gun email I inadvertently produced can't hurt my client because it's privileged.

Although Rule 502 of the Federal Rules of Evidence attempts to reduce the waiver of privilege through inadvertent production, it won't help you if you don't take reasonable steps to prevent disclosure and promptly attempt to rectify the error. It also can't help you if you are in state court unless the disclosure came in a federal proceeding. Unfortunately, once the black cat is accidentally let out of the bag, it will often bite you.

Myth #7: In my brief, I can minimize any bad facts or contrary law by putting quotation marks around them.

It is tempting to believe that the written equivalent of air-quotes might neutralize bad facts, contrary rulings, or even ideas with which you simply disagree. But as "disbarred" anti-video game activist Jack Thompson taught us, the technique does not always prove "effective."

Myth #6: Even judges can be held to account for taking kickbacks for each juvenile they send to private detention centers... right?

Perhaps not. It looks like judicial immunity might protect Luzerne County Court Judge Mark "Cash for Kids" Ciavarella, along with others, from private suits stemming from what some have called "one of the largest and most serious violations of children's rights in the history of the American legal system."

Myth #5: My client will love me after hearing about the million dollar settlement they'll soon be able to spend.

In most cases, this would be true. It will not be true when you secured no such settlement. It will really not be true when you never filed the complaint.

Myth #4: It is not contempt of court if my lewd pantomime is directed at opposing counsel rather than the judge.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals just affirmed a 90 day jail sentence for Austin attorney Adam "Bulletproof" Reposa on the theory that a masterbatory gesture in court, even if directed at opposing counsel, is an "affront to the dignity of the court" which rises to the level of criminal contempt.

Myth #3: Judges have complete control over their courtrooms and the parking lots outside.

Charles County Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley did not appreciate an unauthorized car parked in the reserved section of his courthouse's parking lot. So he let the air out of all four tires of the member of the courthouse cleaning crew who had parked there. His initial owning up to having done it, having done it in the past, and to viewing it as no "big deal" have been replaced by a guilty plea to tampering with a motor vehicle.

Myth #2: The judge rules the courtroom, but I am master of my own blog

Though he was not disbarred, the case of a Florida attorney showed that blogging that a judge is an "Evil, Unfair Witch" can be grounds for reprimand from the state bar.

Myth #1: Atticus Finch is the only example that lawyers can be good people.

Despite some of the counter-examples enumerated above, lawyers do good deeds and help improve the world every day. Hug a lawyer next time you see one (unless it would be creepy).

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