Legal Ethics

Lawyer is suspended for 'intentional bullying tactics' in Facebook message

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The Kansas Supreme Court has suspended a Kansas City lawyer as a result of a Facebook message deemed tantamount to “emotional blackmail.”

The lawyer, Eric Michael Gamble, had represented a biological father opposed to the adoption of his daughter. Gamble’s Facebook message to the 18-year-old mother, who was not represented by counsel, urged her to “get rid of the guilt and standup and do what is right” by revoking consent to the adoption. He attached a form for the woman to sign and notarize to revoke the adoption.

The Legal Profession Blog has a report and links to the Kansas Supreme Court opinion (PDF), which imposes a six-month suspension. A hearing panel had recommended only a 60-day suspension.

Gamble had deposed the woman prior to a hearing scheduled to consider termination of the father’s parental rights, according to a hearing panel report. During the deposition, she testified that she was only 17 when she became pregnant on the first date with the child’s father, and she was not prepared to be a mother.

Gamble sent the message two days after the deposition, which is reprinted in full at the Legal Profession Blog. “I can’t begin to explain how beautiful and wonderful parenthood is,” Gamble wrote. “I have a little girl myself and she is my world just like you are your dad’s world. [The baby] deserves to know her parents. She deserves to know that you love her and care for her as well. Do not let this opportunity pass you by because you will live with this decision the rest of your life and [the baby] will know someday what happened.”

Gamble self-reported his conduct after the parental rights hearing, during which a lawyer for the adoptive parents brought the email to the court’s attention. Gamble’s client lost the case, and the adoption was finalized in July 2013.

A hearing panel found the message “in essence, amounted to emotional blackmail” and said his “intentional bullying tactics” reflect on his fitness to practice law. Gamble’s message also included a false statement about adoption law that was based on his “false supposition,” the hearing panel said. He also prepared the legal document for the woman without advising her to obtain counsel, according to the hearing board.

Gamble did not respond to a request for comment by the ABA Journal.

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