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Legal Ethics

Suspension Likely for Lawyer Who Made Improper Remarks to Female Clients

Posted Dec 8, 2009 2:45 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Seven years working on Wall Street in the banking industry gave David Witherspoon the impression that bad behavior was tolerated, his lawyer says.

But now the "totally remorseful" New Jersey lawyer understands the seriousness of attorney ethics rules and is ready to accept a three-month suspension recommended by the state Disciplinary Review Board for improper sexual remarks he admittedly made to four clients and friends, his counsel, Bernard Freamon, told the state supreme court at a hearing last week.

Presently charged with violating Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7(a)(2) and 8.4(g) for allegedly putting his own prurient interests above the legal interests of clients and engaging in discriminatory conduct, respectively, Witherspoon is facing a tougher penalty due to prior ethics issues, according to the New Jersey Law Journal. The article is reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

He has twice been reprimanded and once censured, mainly due to failing to communicate with clients and poor record-keeping, the legal publication notes.

The article doesn't report what Witherspoon said to the four women.

"Mr. Witherspoon is trying to turn the corner," Freamon, a law professor at Seton Hall University, told the court. "I don't believe you will see Mr. Witherspoon again."

Because of Witherspoon's full cooperation with the ethics investigation and admission of responsibility, the Office of Attorney Ethics had recommended only that he be censured, counsel John McGill III told the court.

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