Brief Fact Summary. An attorney attempted to settle certain disputes over credit card bills in a deceptive manner.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. "A party, having employed counsel to act as an intermediary between himself and opposing counsel, does not lose the protection of [Rule 7-104] merely because opposing counsel is also a party to the litigation."
Issue. Should any sanctions be imposed against the Respondent?
Held. Yes. The court first refers to Disciplinary Rule 7-104, which forbids an attorney to directly communicate or cause someone to directly communicate with an opposing party, if the attorney knows that opposing party is represented by counsel. The court found "[a]n attorney who is himself a party to the litigation represents himself when he contacts an opposing party." Further, "[a] party, having employed counsel to act as an intermediary between himself and opposing counsel, does not lose the protection of the rule merely because opposing counsel is also a party to the litigation." Second, the court refers to Rules 1-102(a)(4) and (5), which forbid attorneys from "engag[ing] in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation" and from "engag[ing] in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice." The court observes that it has adopted a broad definition of fraud, finding fraud if conduct is "calculated to deceive". The court agreed with "the Hearing Board and the Review Board that respondent's conduct, taken as a whole, was calculated to deceive Carte Blanche and Amoco by obtaining settlements of large claims for de minimis amounts." Further, "Respondent bypassed each plaintiff's attorney in these cases and sent each plaintiff a letter which was designed to make the plaintiffs' agents believe that the minimal amount tendered was the amount actually due." The court also found that the Respondent in filing motions to dismiss in this matter involved the court and as such perpetrated a scheme "prejudicial to the administration of justice" and violative of Rule 1-10(a)(5)
Discussion. This case provides another interesting look at the rules of Professional Responsibility and their interaction with contract law.