Legal Ethics

Lawyer is suspended for his response to Internet criticism

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A lawyer accused of disclosing confidential information from his clients in response to their Internet criticism has been suspended for 18 months.

Lawyer James Underhill will have to show rehabilitation before returning to law practice, according to the order by Colorado’s presiding disciplinary judge. The Legal Profession Blog notes the suspension.

According to the order, Underhill disclosed confidential information in response to clients’ Internet complaints about his fees or services in two instances.

In the first, Underhill responded to complaints on two websites by former clients, a husband and wife, “with Internet postings that publicly shamed the couple by disclosing highly sensitive and confidential information gleaned from attorney-client discussions,” the order says.

Underhill then sued the couple for defamation and communicated directly with them, though their lawyer repeatedly asked him to stop, the order says. When the suit was dismissed, Underhill filed a different lawsuit that alleged “without adequate factual basis that the couple had made other defamatory Internet postings,” the order says.

In the second instance, Underhill posted an attorney-client communication on the Internet in response to former clients’ complaints about his representation on the Better Business Bureau website, the order says.

Underhill’s suspension will begin after a prior suspension of three months and a day for communicating directly with former clients represented by counsel while on disciplinary probation. The Legal Profession Blog links to the order revoking probation.

Underhill did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

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