Ethics

Lawyer contends 'SILENCE. (BOOM SHAKALAKA)' satisfies ethics rule; top state court disagrees

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Lowell, Massachusetts, lawyer Ilya Liviz says he did respond to the bar counsel's request for information in a bar inquiry, and that response was adequate.

Liviz wrote that he “DID COMPLY, and DID PROVIDE AN ANSWER, and my answer was provided in a form of SILENCE. (BOOM SHAKALAKA).”

To an extent an answer was required, Liviz said, he denied the allegations and demanded a jury trial.

That didn’t satisfy the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, which affirmed an administrative suspension and contempt order against lawyer Liviz in a May 12 order, report Bloomberg Law and the Legal Profession Blog.

The bar counsel had sought information in February 2019 related to a federal case that Liviz was litigating, the Supreme Judicial Court said. Liviz was suspended by a single justice for failure to cooperate and then failed to comply with its terms, according to the allegations against him. As a result, a single justice held him in contempt. Liviz appealed both orders.

Liviz isn’t entitled to a jury trial, and his silence was grounds for an administrative suspension, the state high court said.

“Silence in the face of bar counsel’s request for information is not, as the respondent claims, a ‘response’ categorically protected by the privilege against compelled self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the court said.

“We need go no further,” the court added. Liviz “makes no meaningful attempt” to challenge the contempt order and instead focuses on the validity of the suspension order, the court said. “We therefore consider the facts alleged in bar counsel’s complaint for contempt established for purposes of appeal.”

Liviz told the ABA Journal on Monday morning that he would respond to emailed questions, but he had not supplied answers by Tuesday morning.

It’s unclear whether the bar counsel was investigating Liviz in connection with a federal complaint that he filed in the form of a screenplay. U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani had warned Liviz that the court filing didn’t meet federal procedural requirements and told the plaintiff to file a new complaint in order to proceed.

There was no response. Talwani tossed the case in April 2019.

Liviz told the ABA Journal in December 2018 that he filed the complaint in the form of a screenplay because he had to draw some attention to his client’s plight.

“If I had filed it regular, not a screenplay, would you have called me?” he had asked.

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