Friday, October 7, 2011

Attorney Ethics – “Blame It on the Chablis”

Attorney Ethics – “Blame It on the Chablis”

The following is reproduced from the September update from the newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of Pennsylvania, it discussing an attorney disciplinary case from Illinois.  Certain footnotes have been deleted.

Blame It on the Chablis

The most interesting disciplinary case this month is the decision of the Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in the matter of Kelly Maureen Murawski.
Ms. Murawski’s problems arose out of her decision to represent a married man by the name of Matthew, with whom she had formerly had an intimate relationship.  It seems Matthew also had an affair with one Chablis, whom he met on  His profile failed to disclose that he was married to Sally.  A year later, Chablis found out Matthew was married, threatened to tell his wife, and began a pattern of appearing at and telephoning his home.
On a recommendation from a police officer that he obtain a protective order, Matthew contacted Respondent, who agreed to represent him “as a friend.”  Matthew neglected to advise Respondent of the precise nature of his relationship with Chablis.  Respondent filed papers for an ex parte protection order, which was scheduled for a hearing.  Respondent appeared at the hearing with Matthew, at which Chablis appeared with 59 pages of emails and texts from Matthew professing his love and twice proposing marriage.  Respondent asked to see the documentation and sat down on a bench with Chablis to read it.  The sight of his former inamoratas sharing notes on their experience was too much for Matthew, who became enraged and discharged Respondent as his attorney.  She went back into the courtroom and withdrew as his attorney, and after an ensuing scuffle over possession of the documentation, Respondent filed a battery charge against Matthew, who was arrested and jailed.  The protection order was dismissed.
Later that day, Respondent telephoned Sally and informed her that Matthew was in jail, and also of his relationships with Respondent and Chablis.  Ostensibly, this was to arrange a time for service of a protective order.  It turned out Sally already knew about Chablis.  Nonetheless much unpleasantness ensued, and Matthew and Sally divorced.
Despite the bad judgment evident in Respondent’s handling of the matter, all disciplinary charges were dismissed.  Murawski was found not to have violated a requirement of Rule 1.16(d) to deliver documents to her client upon withdrawal because Matthew never had a right to the documents.  The documents remained Chablis’s property unless introduced in the proceeding, which never happened.  She did not betray a client’s confidence in violation of Rule 1.6(a) by her call to Sally because Sally already knew about Chablis.  She did not use information adverse to a former client in violation of Rule 1.9(a)(2) because Matthew’s relationship with Chablis was known not only to Sally, but also to those in the public courtroom.
Although Ms. Murawski was not disciplined, a few lessons appear from the case:
1.       Representing a married former paramour “as a friend” is probably a bad idea.
2.       Representing a married former paramour in a domestic dispute with another former paramour “as a friend” is definitely a bad idea.
3.       Representing a married former paramour with anger issues in a domestic dispute with another former paramour named Chablis he met while trolling as a single man is absolutely a bad idea.
4.       Not asking your married former paramour with anger issues why he wants you to file a protective order against a woman named Chablis is a very bad idea.
5.       Calling your married former paramour’s wife to explain that her husband is in jail and that you are filing a protective order against him because of his behavior in a protective order case you filed against another former paramour named Chablis he met on cannot possibly have seemed like a good idea at the time.

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