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Article Title

Legal Ethics

Authors

Roy M. Sobelson

Publication Date

12-1999

Document Type

Survey Article

Abstract

This Article covers the rules, cases, ethics opinions, and other matters decided by the Georgia Supreme Court, the Georgia Court of Appeals, and a federal district court between June 1, 1998, and May 31, 1999, that have most affected, or may affect, Georgia lawyers. Many eyepopping headlines about lawyers and their profession filled the survey period. Although very few of the underlying cases made or changed any substantive law, they may well have substantially altered the landscape of lawyering, creating or illuminating various pitfalls and land mines.

One Georgia lawyer, disbarred for murdering his landlord, avoided the death penalty only after he finally admitted his guilt. Moreton Rolleston, considered by many to be something of a legend in Atlanta legal circles, continued his assault on the record for the longest time and most motions filed to avoid paying a malpractice judgment against him. A judge in north Georgia, a convicted felon before he took the bench, was removed, at least in part, for improper actions in office. Two lawyers generated both local and national controversy when they collected a huge fee in a personal injury case, leaving their deceased client's family with virtually nothing. At least one of them found it impossible to comply with a judge's order to place the large sum in the court registry because he had already spent it. In another case, the Supreme Court noted defendant's lawyer during the criminal trial, but the court refused to reverse based on that conflict alone. Finally, in a criminal contempt matter arising out of discovery in a products liability case, a federal judge entered a consent judgment assessing a large monetary penalty against a litigant and its law firm and ordering the money to be used in a way that is probably unique in American legal history.

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