During the period of interim suspension, Respondent shall not (a) share in any legal fees arising from clients or cases referred by her to any other lawyer during the period of suspension, or (b) share in any legal fees earned for services by others during such period of suspension. Respondent also shall be prohibited from having any contact with clients or prospective clients or witnesses or prospective witnesses when acting as a paralegal, legal assistant, or law clerk under the supervision of a member of the Delaware Bar. ~ In the Matter of a Member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware; MARLEE JAMES BUCKSON, Respondent (No. 45,2011) (Leagle.com)
I don’t know what Buckson is accused of in regard to this case, but she appears to have a history with both the Oregon and Delaware state bars. The Oregon State Bar Bulletin (Aug/Sept 2007) reports she was “suspended in 2004 for non-payment of PLF and bar dues, and noncompliance with the MCLE rules.” At the time of the bulletin she was working as a legal assistant for a Delaware law firm. Her Avvo profiles indicate her law license remains suspended in Oregon, but that in 2008 she was authorized to practice law in Delaware.
In the current Petition for Interim Suspension, the Court ruled Buckson “poses a significant threat of substantial harm to the public and to the orderly administration of justice.” In my humble opinion, this is not the kind of reference you’d want for anybody working in your law firm, lawyer or not. It actually sounds a little scary.
Faced with a similar scenario of a suspended attorney working as a paralegal in the same office with the same clients, last week the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected a disciplinary deal reached between a now retired lawyer for the state Disciplinary Board and Rio Rancho attorney Dennis Montoya. The proposed agreement also included a prohibition against any client contact by Montoya for six months. The ABQ Journal reports:
After a half-hour adjournment, Chief Justice Charles Daniels said the court had concerns about the agreement as presented. “We’re not inclined to approve it as submitted,” he said. Letting Montoya to go to the same office, with the same clients and staff and merely don a paralegal hat is “just not workable,” he said. Daniels invited a response from Vigil for a change that would include more safeguards.
Regardless of how you feel about disbarred or suspended lawyers working as paralegals and legal assistants, there’s no question that being ordered not to talk to clients, potential clients, or witnesses would be a huge handicap for many legal professionals, especially in smaller firms or in specialty areas where a great deal of client interaction is required. For most of my paralegal career, I’ve spent hours every day talking to clients, taking intake information from potential clients, or talking to witnesses.
If you’re a legal assistant or paralegal who never has to talk to clients, possible clients or witnesses, what do you do? And do you want a suspended or disbarred attorney doing it, too?