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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer Discipline

December 23, 2019

Favorite headline of the week: “Clearwater lawyer who shooed raccoon off boat needs ‘professionalism workshop,’ Florida Bar says.” I want to attend this workshop.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Favorite headline of the week: “Clearwater lawyer who shooed raccoon off boat needs ‘professionalism workshop,’ Florida Bar says.” I want to attend this workshop.

This is the sort of neglected issue that almost never gets discussed in public. What exactly is the most professional way to deal with a raccoon? Does it matter if the raccoon is on a boat? Did the raccoon have an ownership interest in the boat or was he a trespasser?

An article on the Florida Bar website quotes one of the workshop teachers saying they use “peer-to-peer interaction, hypotheticals, and role playing.” That means someone gets to play the role of the raccoon! Do you think he’ll have to wear a mask?

(Note to Courthouse News management: Can we send a Florida reporter to cover this? Please?)

But seriously, how do you deal professionally with a possibly felonious animal? I don’t have all the answers, but several actions seem obvious.

The raccoon must be informed of its legal rights. If you do this properly, you have a potential new client.

If the raccoon is trespassing and refuses to leave, call local law enforcement or perform a citizen’s arrest. It never hurts to keep a pair of tiny handcuffs in your home and office.

Practice tolerance. A commitment to species diversity in the workplace or on a boat is what this country and members of the legal profession should strive for.

But don’t let cuteness get in the way of honest negotiation.

Some of you may be thinking that a professionalism workshop isn’t necessarily the best way of dealing with a raccoon-attacking lawyer. I don’t know whether that’s true, but admittedly, there are alternative ways of dealing with bad attorney behavior. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin, for example, last week ruled on a recommendation from the Office of Lawyer Regulation that a lawyer get a psychological evaluation.

You know some of these people be crazy.

Sending lawyers off to shrinks should be the default option, but for some reason this doesn’t happen much. The Wisconsin court decided against the mental health checkup even though the lawyer’s actions seemed a little nuts.

The attorney, according to the ruling, went to a lot of trouble to fabricate a bunch of receipts for a trip to an American Bar Association seminar in New Orleans in December 2016. (Yes, this has been percolating for three years.)

There were several problems with this: The seminar was in November and the lawyer was spotted in Wisconsin during the time she claimed to be in New Orleans. She hadn’t even left town!

Does this sound sane to you?

I think it’s a cry for help. If nothing else, she should have been offered some training on trip planning.

The best part of this comes midway through the Wisconsin ruling. It turns out that the discipline subject “was not only an attorney but also a certified public accountant and a certified fraud examiner; indeed she had drafted her employer’s ethics handbook for all employees.”

What better cover for a criminal mastermind? Or did the pressure of the job drive her mad?

So why did the Wisconsin justices rule against the psychological assessment? I don’t know. They don’t explain it.

Maybe they’re crazy.

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