Citation. In re Masters, 208 Fed. Appx. 857, 2006)
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Brief Fact Summary.
Respondent attorney not only advised his client to comply with extortion demands made by a union boss, but acted as an intermediary to ensure that the payments were made.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Attorneys may not condone nor act as intermediaries for the extortion of their clients.
Respondent, attorney Frank Masters, was serving part-time as a Special Assistant Attorney General as well as operating his own law practice. A client came to him who had been repeatedly extorted, with threats of violence, by a union boss (who happened to be overseeing a construction project that Respondent’s son was working on) who was known to follow through on his threats. Respondent advised his client to comply, and arranged to deliver the payments himself. Once these actions came out in unrelated proceedings, Respondent was referred to the state bar association for disciplining?
Was the Respondent’s conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice?
Yes, Respondent had an absolute duty to report the threats. Suspended for one year.
Although the Respondent certainly had a legal duty to report the extortion threats, there seems to be a legitimate argument here that his compliance with the demands was carried out due to a reasonable fear for the safety of his client, himself, and his son. Should the court have given this more weight?.