Legal Ethics

'The First Amendment wins' in dropped ethics probe over lawyer's 'hatchet job tactics' blog post

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The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission is citing the First Amendment in dismissing a grievance filed by a Michigan psychiatrist against a lawyer who criticized her expert testimony in a blog post.

The targeted lawyer, Steven Gursten, revealed the dismissal in a post at his blog Michigan Auto Law, the Consumer Law & Policy Blog reports.

“The First Amendment wins,” Gursten wrote. “Citing U.S. and Michigan constitutional grounds, the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission has dismissed Dr. Rosalind Griffin’s grievance against me.”

Griffin is a member of the state’s attorney discipline board, which functions as an appellate tribunal after a hearing panel rules in an ethics case. She had alleged that Gursten’s statements on his blog “misrepresent my credentials, my testimony, and my character” and suggest that she committed perjury.

Griffin had examined a client of Gursten’s who was injured in a truck accident. She was selected by the insurer for the defendant to conduct the “independent medical exam.” Gursten received a judge’s permission to record Griffin’s medical examination; many judges don’t allow it.

In the blog post at issue, Gursten contrasted Griffin’s deposition testimony with the recorded exam. “Decide for yourself whether my top 9 ‘hatchet job’ tactics were used by Dr. Griffin in my case,” he wrote. In the first example, Gursten wrote, “Did Dr. Griffin lie in her IME report and during her videotaped deposition by specifically claiming [Gursten’s client] made ‘statements’ to her that ‘he has been improving’ or that ‘he has improved’?”

In his blog post announcing the dropped probe, Gursten goes on to criticize “the devastation” caused by IME doctors. “What would have happened if this exam between Dr. Griffin and my client had not been recorded?” he asked.

“Many IME doctors make staggering amounts of money performing these one-time examinations on behalf of insurance companies and defendants in auto accident and workers’ compensation lawsuits,” Gursten wrote. “These doctors rarely find anything wrong with the people who are forced to see them, because they have a perverse financial incentive not to find anything wrong.”

Incorrect reference corrected in the sixth paragraph on Feb. 19.

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