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‘Hot tub’ lawyer sanctioned by federal judge

A lawyer trying to locate evidence to bolster his lending fraud case stepped over the line when he met with a witness that he knew was represented by counsel in a related matter, a federal judge has ruled.

The evidence obtained by Michigan lawyer David Binkley – in part through a clandestine meeting in a Myrtle Beach-area hot tub – helped revive a claim against Bank of America in a Virginia case. Binkley’s tactics, however, resulted in an order for a written reprimand and a $25,000 fine from North Carolina U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard this month.

“Binkley willfully engaged in direct communications with [the witness] concerning matters for which [the witness] had secured legal representation without counsel’s consent in violation of Rule 4.2(a) and this court’s ethical standards,” Howard wrote.

Based on evidence from e-mails procured through Binkley’s contacts, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee in October agreed to allow a group of Virginia investors to replead their conspiracy case against BoA. The plaintiffs, many of them Northern Virginia school teachers hoping for quick profits on unseen properties, allege that BoA employees helped bring about their losses by seeking out appraisers who would provide inflated land values.

-By Peter Vieth

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