I don’t think any of you want to be associated with a “paralegal” or “investigator” whose qualifications, or lack thereof, include:
- An extensive criminal history
- No formal paralegal education
- No investigator’s license
Yet that’s the person Georgia lawyer Joseph Maccione hired to assist him in his solo practice, allowing this fine fellow to prepare correspondence, communicate with clients, and collect retainer fees – and to identify himself as a paralegal and investigator on business cards and letterhead.
So maybe Maccione should not have been too awfully surprised when his erstwhile paralegal/investigator “collected” numerous items of personal property from a client’s home (while that client was in a mental hospital following a suicide attempt), ostensibly as a credit toward the client’s fees in a murder case. Only the property was never actually accounted for or credited against the client’s bill.
Raise your hand if you know the simple word for taking other people’s stuff under the guise of legal representation and then not accounting for it.
Anyhoo, Maccione admits to violating Georgia Ethics Rule 5.3, which requires a lawyer to make reasonable efforts to make sure nonlawyer assistant conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer, and Rule 8.4, which prohibits a lawyer from violating the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, or helping someone else to do so.
Maccione generously proposed to the Georgia State Bar, in response to its Formal Complaint against him, that in lieu of the maximum penalty of disbarment, he receive voluntary discipline in the form of a review panel reprimand. The bar didn’t object to this proposal, which is kind of a mysterious position since the entire recitation of facts associated with the misconduct, which you can read for yourself, is really rather awful.
This week, the Georgia Supreme Court said (more or less), “Not so fast buddy, a reprimand seems a little light, even if you’re a well-intentioned guy, and your former employee was a hustler that had no business working in a law office. You hired and supervised him; you’re responsible for his bad actions.”
I like it.