Lawyer is suspended for giving client's business a bad review in 'good for the gander' retaliation

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A New Jersey lawyer has been suspended from practice for a year partly because he disclosed a former client’s criminal past in a negative review of her massage business.

The lawyer, Brian LeBon Calpin, was suspended in a May 7 order, the Legal Profession Blog reports.

The New Jersey Supreme Court said Calpin violated an ethics rule barring the use of information relating to the representation of a former client to the client’s disadvantage.

Calpin had posted the negative review in June 2018 after the client gave him poor online reviews of his legal services, according to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s disciplinary review board. Calpin had won unsupervised visitation for the client after she took her children to another state without authorization, “seemingly, a good result,” according to the review board.

Calpin said he posted the negative review because “what is good for the goose is good for the gander,” according to the board.

Calpin’s review for the massage business had read: “Well, Angee is a convicted felon for fleeing the state with children. A wonderful parent. Additionally, she has been convicted of shoplifting from a supermarket. Hide your wallets well during a massage. Oops, almost forgot about the DWI conviction. Well, maybe a couple of beers during the massage would be nice.”

The information that Calpin posted was not generally known, although it was publicly available, the review board said. As a result, the disclosure was not shielded by the “generally known” exception to the duty of former client confidentiality.

The board cited an ABA ethics opinion that said information is generally known if “(a) it is widely recognized by members of the public in the relevant geographic area; or (b) it is widely recognized in the former client’s industry, profession or trade.”

The review board also said Calpin’s conduct in three other client matters had violated ethics rules governing neglect, diligence, keeping clients informed, delivering client funds or property, and returning client property after representation. The board also said Calpin apparently misrepresented to an investigator that he had sent a refund check to a former client, violating an ethics rules on dishonesty.

Calpin had previously received a reprimand for neglect, lack of diligence, and failure to communicate in June 2014 and for lack of diligence in January 2017.

The number listed for Calpin by the New Jersey courts was no longer in service. He had defaulted on the ethics charges.

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