Legal Ethics

Lawyer accused judges of 'incompetence and ignorance' in pleading, ethics complaint alleges

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A North Carolina lawyer is facing disciplinary charges in part over some off-color remarks he made in his pleadings about opposing counsel and a panel of state appeals court judges.

Michael J. Anderson of Wilson is accused in the complaint (PDF) of engaging in discourteous conduct that is degrading to a tribunal, engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice and using means that had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass a third person.

Anderson is also accused of failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority, knowingly making a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter and failing to fully come into compliance with required trust account reconciliation procedures.

The complaint against him contains three claims, including one over his response to a grievance against him and one involving his handling of trust accounts. But it was his pleadings in connection with a workers’ compensation case he handled that account for the bulk of the disciplinary charges against him.

In one such pleading, the Legal Profession Blog reports, Anderson accused North Carolina Court of Appeals judges who had ruled against his client of “overwhelming incompetence and ignorance, as well as asinine and unprofessional behavior.” He later continued: “Had I known the level of intellectual functioning and maturity of this panel in advance, I would have come prepared with a coloring book with big pretty pictures to illustrate my points.”

In another pleading, Anderson accused the panel of “acting like mentally challenged cheerleaders, knowing they wanted to motivate their team to victory, but not sure of how to accomplish the goal,” saying the panel had “made it clear it was determined to rule for the defendant but didn’t know how to justify such a ruling and were simply seeking such justification.”

In the same pleading, Anderson said the firm representing the defendant—the insurer for his client’s employer—appeared to “as much regard for truth and candor toward the tribunal as its client has for basic human rights.” Perhaps, he said, the firm, Wall Templeton & Haldrup, should be known as “Tall Story-ton on behalf of Liberty Mutual for Those who Can Sue Us and Torture for Those Who Can’t.”

In yet another pleading, Anderson said the Court of Appeals had apparently decided that the state supreme court would “tolerate intentional torts committed upon the workers of this state” as part of the claims handling process, “presumably because the governor would like to keep costs down for the state by forcing injured workers to forego [sic] claims for benefits under the act or be tortured.”

“It would appear the instant panel will glad [sic] play thee [sic] blind mice,” and that one judge “will serve the role historically played by Monica Lewinsky for President Clinton for the current governor of North Carolina.”

He continued: “At this point, I’m convinced that with the passing of each so-called ‘fart’ I dispense more integrity and legal competence than is possessed by all the folks on the panel combined and, if these judges are intent upon making the North Carolina Court of Appeals a literal ‘whippin’ boy’ for special interests, they are welcome to kiss my red white and blue American made ass.”

Anderson told the ABA Journal that he has done nothing wrong and will defend himself in proceedings before the state bar’s disciplinary hearing commission.

“What I said was necessary and justified in my zealous representation” of his client, he said.

He also said he had given the state bar everything it had asked for, including unfettered access to his trust account, and is considering an action against the bar for abuse of process.

“I’m sorry I have to go through this to get the truth to see the light of day,” he said.

Updated at 4:59 p.m. to correct typographical error in headline.

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