Tragically, depending on the kind of law practice, such things have become a kind of occupational hazard for lawyers. Almost a year ago, I wrote about “The dangerous practice of law.”
And while some jurisdictions have ethical rules under Fee Reasonableness at ER 1.5 that seemingly allow for a kind of ‘combat pay’ when it comes to “the degree of risk assumed by the lawyer,” hazards come with the territory.
Last month, for example, criminal defense lawyer Edward Cox’s client, Joshua Monson, physically redefined the meaning of ‘pencil-neck’ as he was the “Man stabs lawyer with pencil” in a Snohomish County, Washington courtroom. Cox thinks Monson was acting under stress.
Monson, though, didn’t apologize. Surprisingly, Cox even said he would continue representing Monson. A few days later, though, Monson was assigned a new lawyer. But the new guy got no more respect than Cox. According to HeraldNet.com, Monson also supposedly took a pencil to new lawyer Gurjit Pandher. Fortunately, neither lawyer was hurt.
Then this past April, there was the “Defense Attorney Attacked By Client.” A female defense lawyer was allegedly attacked by prison inmate Wes Yamamoto at the Halawa Correctional Facility. Yamamoto apparently didn’t like the way his parole hearing turned out and took it out on his lawyer. The hearing had just ended when according to reports, he allegedly struck his lawyer twice in the head and when she went down, kicked her.
And then on April 27, 2011, Kentucky’s McCreary County Record reported that Michael Callebs, 33, allegedly entered the law office of Lattie Lominac and punched the lawyer in the face before Lominac fled. See “Local attorney assaulted.”
On May 3, 2011, in an Oklahoma County courtroom, Emanuel Mitchell, who had just been convicted of first degree murder, lunged at District Attorney David Prater, punching him in the face in open court. See “DA attacked during trial in fatal pharmacy heist” | Tulsa World. Prater, though, is understandably unforgiving, saying he will press charges against Mitchell. See “Prosecutor Reacts To Courtroom Attack“ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQOGIs7nUYs
But the worse happened this month. On June 1, 2011 in Yuma, Arizona, criminal defense and family law attorney Jerrold Shelley was the “Lawyer among the dead in Yuma shooting spree” – Kingman Daily Miner. Shelley was slain in his law office.
As also reported at ABAJournal.com, the killer who took his own life after the shootings, was Carey Hal Dyers. The 62-year old Shelley had reportedly represented Dyers’ ex-wife Theresa Lorraine Sigurdson in her divorce. Also killed were three of Sigurdson’s friends. See KYMA News 11.
A usefully informative article “Identifying Violent Clients” by Todd C. Scott, Vice President of Risk Management and Member Services at Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, was republished by the ABA Smart SOLOing Newsletter — May 2011. It contains a good overview on risk, noting in particular the hazards of criminal defense work and increasingly, family law practice.
The only thing about the article, though, is that it really doesn’t give you much more than the commonsensical advice to “trust your gut.”
Right, you mean like when a “bizzare” client wants representation, think twice?
And then there’s the same lawyer’s disconcertingly blinding glimpse of the obvious summation. The lawyer says, “They attack you for only one reason. To hurt you.”