I really don’t get it sometimes. A client goes to a lawyer with a legal problem. The lawyer declines the case. And then the lawyer yaps to the press?!? Are you kidding me?
It comes up today in the ongoing train-wreck of actress Lindsay Lohan, who apparently has had a spot of legal trouble with getting boozed up and driving, and the consequences that flowed from it.
But a headline at the ABAJournal on this actress seeking pro bono counsel caught my eye. Is she claiming poverty that she needs free legal help? No. She just paid two others lawyers already so she thinks her third one should be a freebie. Go figure.
Anyway, this is what caught my attention and rankled me, this bit at the end of the article:
Meanwhile, another counsel candidate who says he refused the representation has already dished to People magazine.
His would-be client is “a fragile lost child” who “just doesn’t get it” concerning the seriousness of the case she is involved in, says Stuart Goldberg, a criminal defense attorney based in Chicago. When he met with the actress and two relatives, “they didn’t seem to understand the urgency and gravity of the situation.”
Why the hell is this Stuart Goldberg, apparently a Chicago criminal defense lawyer, talking about what he heard or saw in the confidence of his practice? And why would any future client ever trust him to keep a secret?
The People article has him giving a great deal of information about his supposed-confidential meeting with Lohan at her home.
More details from the visit at People:
At one point in their meeting, Goldberg, worried that Lohan “was in a dangerous state,” asked if she might hurt herself.
“She started sobbing quietly. She was genuinely in pain,” says Goldberg.
And though he advised Lohan to move out of Los Angeles, which he described as a “toxic environment for her,” the actress didn’t seem open to the idea.
“She was like Teflon to that comment,” he says. “It just slid right off her. She seemed to have some inner deep sadness that that was her fate.”
That is no way for a lawyer to act, unless Lohan agreed to let him yap to the press, which seems rather unlikely.
File this one under Attorney Ethics.
Update, 7/16/10: While I have no desire to follow the follies of stars and starlets on any continuing basis (which is one reason, I suppose, I initially mis-spelled Lohan’s first name as “Lindsey”), I do wish to add another version of why this match was not made to measure. Goldberg claimed, apparently, that he turned down Lohan, as noted above. But it may be the other way around. According to this report:
Lindsay Lohan says that she turned Goldberg down because she didn’t like his style. TMZ gives the example of his vanity license plates which say “Snake Charmer”.
Snake Charmer. Nice. I wonder if jurors ever see him get into that car.
I had the same reaction. It is unbelievable that an attorney would disclose to the press confidential information from what amounts to a client intake meeting.
Since we are talking about Lindsay Lohan, it’s possible she approved of the leak to the press. But even if so, the information still should not have been disclosed. What’s the next client going to think when meeting with this guy?
Yeah, it’s possible it could be Lohan’s doing. I just think it’s unlikely given the content of her not understanding the gravity of what was going on.
And I think it would foolish for a lawyer to engage in such shenanigans, even if he was put up to it. For what will other clients think? What’s he going to do, break a confidence and say “Lohan asked me to do this”?
I wonder how much People paid for this story. There is certain to be some repercussion for his actions. Aside from the collosal breach of confidentiality, he’s making comments like he is a licensed therapist of some sort. Like you stated, I cannot imagine how his future clients would view this lapse in judgment. I guess Lohan’s stardom outshined his ethics.
@NC Injury Lawyer –
I wonder how much People paid for this story.
I get the sense this guy didn’t exactly demand any money. He was probably delighted to get the press.
By the way, signing your name (or even a pseudonym) would be nice. I almost reflexively deleted the comment as spam before reading it based on the “name” that you gave. I hope you understand that all comments are coded as “no follow” and that there isn’t any Google juice to be gained by signing your post that way.
@Eric Turkewitz – Sorry. My fields are auto-filled since I started out that way. Since finding your blog, I check it often. I even linked it from my own. I will use my real name from this point on.
It sounds like a paid story for creating a hype.
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Bingo, Eric. I fear most lawyers have never read ABA Model Rule 1.18, which Illinois hasn’t adopted, but which only reaffirms what has been the profession’s ethical principle forever: preliminary meetings with potential clients are confidential. Thanks for calling Goldberg on this. And he’s hardly the only one.
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