Perhaps the most common kinds of complaints against lawyers involve delay or neglect. This doesn’t mean that occasionally you’ve had to wait for a phone call to be returned. It means there has been a pattern of the lawyer’s failing to respond or to take action over a period of months.
Another class of complaint involves breaches of obligations owed by the lawyer to its clients. This is a more sinister form of complaint, and cases on this subject matter often generate substantial publicity.
In 2008, Diskeeper’s former CIO, Alexander Godelman, and Automation Planning Officer Marc Le Shay jointly filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court for the improper dismissal of a complaint.
Diskeeper allegedly required training in Hubbard Management courses. The problem is not that these are based on the management technology of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, but that these courses became a condition of employment.
Failure to comply was cause for dismissal. Thus, the courses were alleged to violate the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
By 2009, the case was dismissed entirely, and Diskeeper later won an arbitration award against Godelman and Le Shay’s attorney, Barry B. Kaufman.
Kaufman allegedly broke the terms of the settlement agreement with Godelman and LeShay when he wouldn’t return materials to Diskeeper and instead used them in another deposition.
The arbitrator found that Kaufman broke his duty of confidentiality under paragraph 9(A) of the settlement agreement by using Diskeeper’s training documents during the deposition and showing them to his co-counsel.
The arbitrator also found that Kaufman made a negligent misrepresentation when he told Diskeeper that Godelman and LeShay had returned all the documents required by the settlement agreement, when in fact he didn’t.
Kaufman was forced to pay $70,000 in liquidated damages, $297,000 in attorney fees, and $88,034 in costs and expenses.
The consequences of a breach of confidentiality in this context include dealing with the ramifications of lawsuits, loss of business relationships, and reputational damage. Lawyers should always be mindful of their obligations under relevant statutes, lest they experience an award of damages against them like Kaufman.
If you wish to lodge a complaint against a lawyer, including for breaches of confidentiality, locate your state agency from the Directory of State Disciplinary Agencies. The Center operates the National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank, the only national repository of information on public sanctions imposed upon lawyers in disciplinary cases throughout the United States.
American Bar Association