Legal Ethics

Top Delaware Court Reprimands Business Solo for Resisting Mandatory Family Court Appointments

Delaware’s top court has publicly reprimanded a 16-year solo business law practitioner for resisting multiple court appointments to handle matters in Sussex County’s family court.

John M. Murray had argued that it was his responsibility to inform clients and the court that he was not experienced in family court or litigation matters. But the Board on Professional Responsibility said, in a report attached to the Delaware Supreme Court’s order (PDF) on Monday, that it is a long-standing tradition in Sussex County for lawyers to take on such cases outside their usual area of expertise.

In addition to seeking help from seasoned practitioners, court-appointed lawyers also have the option of getting another lawyer in their firm to handle the matter or paying another attorney to take it on, the report notes. Counsel fees may be applied for by court-appointed lawyers.

The board also took Murray to task for the tone of his letters and his persistence in asking judges to relieve him of court-appointed case assignments, finding his conduct “through the language and tenor … disruptive to the tribunal, and … undignified and discourteous.”

While Murray expressed regret in his testimony about the tone of his communications with the court, saying that he had not intended to be disrespectful, the report called his comments a “nominal apology” and said he did not truly seem “to acknowledge that his actions were wrong, to understand why his conduct was found to be in violation of the rules, or even the discourtesy of his letters to the court.”

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog.

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