Legal Ethics

Lawyer Says April Fool's Joke Was Not an Ethics Violation

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A lawyer who announced April 1 that he had been hired at the official White House law blogger is refuting an assertion that the joke violated ethics rules.

Lawyer Eric Turkewitz is becoming known among legal bloggers for his April Fool’s jokes. This year he told readers of his New York Personal Injury Law Blog why he had accepted the White House gig. “I’ll have the opportunity to both expand the scope of my writing and serve my country at the same time,” he wrote, fooling at least one reporter.

Turkewitz’s joke prompted the blog Ethics Alarms to assert that the lawyer had an obligation under Rule 8.4 to refrain from intentional misrepresentation or dishonesty. “There is no April Fool’s Day exception,” the blog said. “Web hoaxes are unethical, always, every day of the week, and web hoaxes perpetrated by lawyers are professional misconduct.”

Turkewitz disagrees in a new blog post. He cites a recent federal appeals court decision holding that law firm ads showing space aliens and lawyers running at breakneck speeds did not violate ethics rules.

“It was all about First Amendment protections of free speech,” Turkewitz writes.

He also points out that his joke wasn’t pulled in conjunction with representation of a client. “Thus, if you make the April Fool’s joke an ethical violation, then so too are misrepresentations surrounding surprise parties, Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy,” he writes.

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