Attorney is a defendant in civil case and represents co-defendant

Just to be clear, I have a legal team who is doing a great job. I just have some general questions that I would like to get feedback on because I can’t tie up the attorneys handling our case with these types of questions. We have had an incredibly difficult legal issue to deal with over the past few years and I am one of those people who needs to try to educate myself about things I am involved in.
My grandmother went to an attorney to get her trust updated - the attorney ended up being one of the bad guys. She shares an office with her husband that is a doctor (the attorneys office is a converted patient room). The attorney has a paralegal that is a convicted felon (she embezzled over $100K from her previous employer). The attorney tried to get conservatorship over my grandmother (no notice to family) which was denied. Fifteen days after the conservatorship was denied the husband put my grandmother in hospice and put her on Fentanyl/Morphine (she was not terminally ill) and 20 days later she died. My husband and I had POA for her healthcare and my husband is trustee of her estate. We have spent a crazy couple of years dealing with these people in court.

The attorney is representing herself and is also representing the paralegal. I believe she is doing this to control what the paralegal says and so she is present for any depositions that take place (she doesn’t let her answer questions). We have gotten past the demurrer stage for these 3 - they were all overruled. This attorney is getting desperate and is now started to submit motions with complete outrageous lies in them. Her MO is to get the court distracted from what they did with all this nonsense BS.

My question is has anyone here ever come across any cases like this? How did they deal with an attorney that is a complete liar? How long does the judge usually let this stuff go on?

I would also like to know why judges will only hear whatever motion is on the calendar that day? Even if there are future motions on the calendar and all parties have submitted all of their documents? For example, one defendant will have a demurrer on the calendar, the other defendant has a demurrer on the calendar a few weeks later and all documents are submitted to the court. Why doesn’t the court go ahead and hear both demurrers instead of hearing one and then waiting to hear the other one? It doesn’t seem like a very efficient way to run things.

Again, I am not looking for legal advice - I am really curious to know if there have been other cases like this? I have never heard anything in the media about a doctor/attorney husband and wife (and the convicted felon paralegal) that had a “one stop shop” to target elderly clients/patients. I am very curious to find any other cases that I can read to see how they turned out.

Moderator Action

Welcome to the SDMB, musicmgr.

It’s probably not obvious from the forum descriptions, but we prefer to place threads involving real-world legal issues in our In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) forum. This is just to emphasize that any responses you get are just the opinions of some folks online and should not be taken as the equivalent of professional legal advice.

I will move this thread for you.

Moving thread from GQ to IMHO.

I’m not in your jurisdiction, but here, the courts schedule their time by the lodging party giving an estimate of hearing time when they lodge the application. Hearing multiple applications will take longer. Also, in preparing for the day’s list, the judge looks only at the papers for the applications on the list, they don’t know there are other applications “in the works”, so they won’t have read the papers and be ready to hear arguments. If there are related applications, here you can ask for them to be listed together by ringing up the listing coordinator and telling him/her how long the hearings are expected to take.
tl:dr - it’s an administration thing and it’s up to the parties to get them heard together.

Again, it may be completely different over there, and as you are dealing with a “difficult” party, she probably doesn’t want things to be dealt with smoothly and less expensively, she’ll be looking to wear you down with costs and inconvenience.

I am probably not in your jurisdiction, and only speaking generally here, but a lawyer’s paramount duty is to the Court and the administration of justice, and courts usually have a range of powers to ensure the proper administration of justice.

There is a presumption that a person should not be deprived by the court of their lawyer of choice, but this presumption can be rebutted by demonstrating there is some impropriety about the circumstances which may result in the lawyer having impaired objectivity and independence.

There are a number of circumstances where a court might exercise its power to restrain a lawyer from acting for a party - commonly where a lawyer is (or may be) a material witness in the proceedings and has a personal interest in the outcome of the matter, so that impaired objectivity and independence I mentioned earlier can be demonstrated.

You are represented by one or more attorneys. All of your questions about your legal matter should be addressed to your attorneys. No one else has access to all of the relevant information about your case.

IANAL. Are you also suing the doctor who put your grandmother in hospice? Was he your grandmother’s caregiver before this all started?

No offense, I hope, but as Oakminster says, that’s what your attorneys are for.

Welcome to the SDMB.


What is a conservatorship? Why would an attorney try to get one on a random client? How did she end up going to the Doctor husband? It sounds like it started as a strictly legal issue. How did that segue to going to the Doctor? Are you saying she was fine but the Fentanyl/Morphine caused her death?

That can get pricey. I was involved in litigation in which I was awarded my legal fees, so cost was no concern. I would call my legal team with a “just curious” question several times a week. Each call was a conference call with two attorneys, a paralegal, and me. Each attorney and the paralegal billed for their time, and I would ask follow up questions as well as inquiring about everyone’s’ kids, etc.

Actually I realized it isn’t clear: who is suing who, and for what?

If Law and Order has taught me anything, it’s that a court can order a lawyer to stop representing two clients in the same matter when the court is convinced that the interests of the two clients are different enough (for example, Boss’s attorney is also representing Underling, when both are charged in the same criminal matter. Prosecutors offer Underling a very good deal to testify against Boss. Attorney has a significant conflict of interest in advising Underling, especially when Boss is actually paying the bills).

It’s when somebody takes over somebody else’s affairs because they can’t take care of themselves. Basically, a guardian is assigned.

To the OP (“Original Poster” - she’s a newbie :slight_smile: ): Contact your local state’s bar association/governing body to file a complaint (if in the U.S., google the state Supreme Court’s website and look for “attorney discipline”). If the attorney acted unethically, they will possibly take additional action.

If your question is can an attorney properly represent him/herself, his/her firm and members of his/her staff in a case brought against them, the answer is, generally yes.

In fact, I am sort of in that situation now. My firm obtained a judgment for a client against a woman, who is now suing the firm and each of the individual lawyers who worked on the matter. The woman is representing herself and her claims are, in our opinion, manifestly without merit. Nonetheless, we have to go through the process of getting the case dismissed, and I’m representing the firm and the individual lawyers in moving to do so (as well as fight off all of her creative motions she is making to the court).

Recently, she has moved to amend her complaint to name me individually as a defendant and to disqualify me from appearing as defense counsel. Once I fully research our opposition, I will be able to cite chapter and verse on why this is proper under my jurisdiction’s law and legal ethics, but our well-informed preliminary conclusion is that – at least under the facts and circumstances here – yeah, we can do this.

That’s not to say that what the lawyer/defendant is doing is proper in your jurisdiction and under the facts of the case. As Quericus noted above, applying Law and Order precedent, a court can disqualify a lawyer from representing a client (i.e. the paralegal) if the lawyer’s and the client’s interests are divergent, or the lawyer and the client otherwise have conflicts of interest.

One issue that may be relevant, at least if the matter goes to trial, is the “Lawyer-Witness” rule. The model American Bar Association rule, Rule 3.7, upon which most state rules are modeled states:

If the lawyer is expected to be a witness at the trial (which it sounds like she would be in the case you are describing), she may be prohibited from representing her paralegal at the trial. Note that the rule generally applies at the trial only, and not for pre-trial proceedings like depositions, though a judge can apply it prospectively to make sure that the client is properly represented before the trial.

This is just a general discussion of my understanding of the law, and I can’t advise you on how this may play out in your case, which likely has facts and circumstances that can make the results different. There are also many strategic and tactical considerations on whether and when to make a motion to disqualify counsel.

I would recommend you consult your attorneys to see if they think there is a basis for disqualification of the lawyer in her representation of the paralegal (she likely has an absolute right to represent herself, whatever the wisdom of that may be), and whether they advise that it make sense to move to have her disqualified.

On the question of dealing with litigants (including attorney litigants) who are complete liars, any experienced lawyer or judge has dealt with that repeatedly. Often, a canny judge will allow the liar-litigant to proceed long enough to give him/herself enough rope to hang him/herself.

As to the scheduling of motions, that is a matter for the practice and procedure of the individual court (and sometimes the individual judge). It is different in each county around me, and within the scope of the particular county’s procedures, some judges will control their calendars more actively, and others will just deal with whatever comes up in the usual course of scheduling. If there are multiple related matters coming up in close proximity, your lawyer’s contacting the appropriate person in the judge’s chambers can often get them moved to the same hearing date/time, but again, that is up to the judge and his/her staff.

Good luck.