Legal Ethics

Lawyer criticized over racy YouTube ad

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Michael A. Fiumara, an attorney in Santa Rosa, California, who offers criminal defense services, is under fire after a racy advertisement he made attracted national attention.

Fiumara’s short video, one of a series of advertisements produced by his office, features him with a talking doll dressed as a sexy woman. He asks questions about her “case” and presses a button, and the doll responds with phrases like “Oooh, baby, it’s so big!” The video was picked up by the Comedy Central show @midnight, the host of which challenged three comedians to come up with “an even more inappropriate pitch for your legal services.”

According to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Fiumara made the video as a humorous break after recording a series of more serious videos about prostitution law. The doll was a gag gift left over from a friend’s wedding, he said. He plans a sequel.

Nonetheless, some attorneys in the area—Fiumara serves clients in Northern California’s wine country and San Francisco’s northern suburbs—were not amused. One attorney described it to the newspaper as “sick.”

University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall legal ethics professor Bruce Budner told the paper he wouldn’t have run the ad, but there’s no law against “bad taste, if that’s what you want to call it.” The State Bar of California declined to comment.

Fiumara’s video is at least a little concerned with ethics. After the doll makes a sexual suggestion, he tells her that he has to end the conversation and refer her to another attorney, because the California Rules of Professional Conduct forbid him to have sex with clients.

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