Here’s some free risk management advice: it’s a bad idea to let the air out of the tires of a car parked in front of your garage.
It’s also ill-advised to squirt glue in the door locks of a tenant who owes you rent.
Doing so may well get you disciplined by the State Bar.
Just ask the Bay City attorney who was found to have committed misconduct by the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board on February 28. The board said the attorney’s actions “exposed the legal profession to contempt” and was “contrary to justice, ethics, honesty or good morals,” according to the ABA Journal and MLive.com.
The attorney did not contest the allegations but argued he was acting in his capacity as a landlord, not a lawyer.
“He said he let the air out of the tenant’s tires to stop her from parking in front of his garage,” the ABA Journal reported. “He said he put glue in the tenant’s locks because she had changed the locks and didn’t give him a key.”
The case illustrates that lawyer discipline under the Rules of Professional Conduct can extend to behavior outside the scope of legal services.
NC Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 Misconduct
Under Rule 8.4, it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;
(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer;
(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official;
(f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law; or
(g) intentionally prejudice or damage his or her client during the course of the professional relationship, except as may be required by Rule 3.3.
- Rule 8.4, Comment 2. “Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice. Offenses involving violence, dishonesty, breach of trust, or serious interference with the administration of justice are in that category.”
- Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble Comment 5. “A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers, and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold the legal process.”
- Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble Comment 10. “Many of a lawyer’s professional responsibilities are prescribed in the Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as substantive and procedural law. However, a lawyer is also guided by personal conscience and the approbation of professional peers. A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession, and to exemplify the legal profession's ideals of public service.”