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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Discipline Problem

It's bad enough that regular courts have frustrating backlogs. Now we're hearing that lawyer disciplinary investigations are backlogged too.

I know this doesn't make sense - how can you know your lawyer is screwing up if your case isn't getting to court? - but apparently it's true.

Wisconsin may or may not be a typical example of this, but its Supreme Court recently got a report from the state's Office of Lawyer Regulation saying the backlog was unsustainable and there are hundreds of investigations more than a year old.

The Wisconsin lawyer regulation agency was formed 15 years ago and the stale docket numbers have reached a 10-year high, so the problem is obvious.

This never would have happened if Wisconsin hadn't created an Office of Lawyer Regulation. What were they thinking?

The situation has created some fascinating statistics. My favorite is that 8 percent of the state's lawyers are in "diversion" programs.

I'm not sure what that means, but I assume these are programs designed to divert lawyers' attention away from clients, by distracting them with free subscriptions to Warcraft and/or porn sites.

The report seems to assume this is a bad thing - a mind is a terrible thing to waste - but I have my doubts about its suggestion: "The use of a better practices letter that addresses the minor violation vs. a diversion accomplishes the same goals of protecting the public and educating the lawyer."

My guess is that these guys have already received educational letters from their clients. It's redundant.

Then there was this: "The Director should consider moving to a true telephone-based intake system that will resolve Intake matters more quickly. Current average processing time (63 days) is good for a paper-based system. The processing time and the effectiveness of a telephone based system would be an improvement."

Apparently, computers haven't arrived in Wisconsin and the old guy with the giant sack of lawyer complaints can't move as fast as he used to.

There was also this nugget: "(W)e heard that some employees resist direction regarding the handling of cases and that progressive disciplinary measures are ineffective. ... If some employees handle cases in their own way and at their own pace, other employees may become demoralized."

That's right: There's a lawyer discipliner disciplinary problem in Wisconsin.

I can't wait for the report on the discipliner grievance backlog.

Vocabulary Word of the Week: Dysphemistically.

It means substituting a harsher or more offensive term for a milder one.

See if this makes sense to you: "She applied for and accepted employment with Club Fantasies, an adult entertainment venue (dysphemistically called a 'strip club') operated in Providence, Rhode Island ..."

As you've probably guessed by now, our vocabulary word and that quote is from an appellate ruling issued last week. The case is Cioffi v. Gilbert Enterprises from the First Circuit.

No, there's no reason for the parenthetical phrase, aside from the judge really wanting to use the word "dysphemistically."

I don't have a problem with that. I've always approved of judges using rulings as creative outlets. It slows their inevitable descent into insanity and prevents many of us from going insane while reading their rulings.

Besides, no one except me and a couple other weirdos is going to read this stuff anyway.

But I do have some technical criticism.

First off, humor is a good thing, but not if it's lame and predictable.

Take a guess at what the summary of this stripper tale was called in the opinion.

Yep - "We start by rehearsing the bare facts ..."


Then there's the dysphemism. Is "strip club" really a harsher, more offensive term? Some of us might think strip clubs are good things.

I would have gone with "malodorous, sticky-floored refuges of depraved rapscallions, drunkards, and daughters who have given up on life."

Actually, I had some better ones, but I don't have judicial immunity.

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