Hello and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Petition for Disciplinary Action filed against a Minnesota lawyer alleging that he abused, insulted, and attempted to intimidate opposing counsel and, amount other insults, said that he hoped that she “sleep(s) with the fishes” as he exited the courtroom.
According to the Petition, a Minnesota lawyer named Peter Nickitas represented a taxicab company in a claim for damages an individual who was represented by a lawyer named Michelle Hurley. The lawyer is alleged to have insulted and abused Hurley during an arbitration hearing held in 2009. The arbitrators awarded taxicab company $1,101.26 in damages.
The lawyer filed a motion to vacate the award stating that it was “erroneous and insufficient”. After the hearing ended, the lawyer allegedly made “multiple and/or threatening comments” to Hurley and, as Hurley approached the courthouse exit, the lawyer “went nose-to-nose with her” and screamed at her, saying (apparently among other things) that he hoped she “sleep[s] with the fishes.” The Petition also alleges that the lawyer had to be pulled away by an associate as a bailiff approached. After the incident, Hurley was shaken and “scared” and refused to be alone with the lawyer and had another person accompany her to hearings when the lawyer would be present.
The Petition also alleges that the lawyer represented another individual in a separate lawsuit against the taxicab company (to try to obtain information that would be helpful to the taxicab company in the arbitration matter) which created an actual or potential conflict of interest, and that he failed to fully disclose the foreseeable risks and consequences to that client. On March 25, 2011, the trial judge issued an Order dismissing that litigation, finding that it was brought “in bad faith and for an improper purpose.”
According to the Petition, the lawyer was previously privately admonished three times and was suspended for 90 days in 2005 for engaging in a consensual sexual relationship with a client, entering into multiple business transactions with the client without properly disclosing the conflict of interest and advising the client to obtain independent counsel, and failing to handle a client matter with adequate diligence and promptness.
Bottom line: This appears to be another case of a lawyer apparently drinking bad water and going a bit “over the top”, so to speak. That’s all I have to say about that…updates to follow.
Be careful out there!
As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
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