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Mar 25, 2015

Final VSB LEO has limited ‘Padilla’ duty for prosecutors

Virginia prosecutors may have an ethical duty to avoid plea bargains that could lead to defendants’ deportation under new guidance from the Virginia State Bar, but only in limited circumstances. A final VSB legal ethics opinion arising from so-called Padilla concerns about misdemeanor plea bargains would apply only when a prosecutor has been informed that […]

Mar 12, 2015

Ex-prosecutor facing VSB ethics charges

A Virginia State Bar disciplinary panel has accused a former commonwealth’s attorney of misleading a jury about possible benefits for the testimony of a government witness. Former Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary L. Close is facing four possible findings of misconduct in the proceedings arising from the murder prosecution of Michael Hash. Hash was convicted […]

Feb 5, 2015

Prosecutors balking at proposed new ethical duty

A Virginia State Bar panel is still pondering how best to prevent criminal defendants from unwittingly creating immigration problems for themselves when they accept plea offers in misdemeanor cases. A proposal to recognize an ethical duty for prosecutors to guard against ill-advised guilty pleas drew fire from Virginia commonwealth’s attorneys, who say they have no […]

Oct 20, 2014

Judicial ethics center moves to NCSC

The Center for Judicial Ethics has been acquired by the Williamsburg-based National Center for State Courts in the wake of the breakup of the American Judicature Society. The move brings the CJE, a national clearinghouse on judicial ethics and discipline, under the umbrella of the NCSC — a “good fit,” in the words of one […]

Aug 6, 2014

Ghostwriting not an ethical violation, VSB says

Lawyers will not be in trouble with the Virginia State Bar for ghostwriting pleadings for pro se litigants, but they still have to use care about where those pleadings might be filed, under a new guidance from the bar. Overruling past interpretations, the VSB Legal Ethics Committee now states that ghostwriting is not inherently dishonest […]

Jun 19, 2014

Joint letter would tell clients of firm split

VIRGINIA BEACH – Neither lawyers who want to leave a law firm nor those who remain would be able to contact the firm’s clients until the two sides have tried to forge a joint letter advising clients of the breakup, under a proposed new ethics rule. When the parties can’t agree on a joint letter, […]

Apr 14, 2014

Bar considers break with the past on ghostwriting lawyers

Virginia State Bar authorities want to rewrite the advisory guidelines for lawyers who ghostwrite pleadings intended to be filed in court by non-lawyer clients. While ghostwriting has been frowned upon by many judges and ethically allowed only with disclosure of the lawyer’s involvement in preparing documents, a proposed new VSB Legal Ethics Opinion would dispense […]

Mar 13, 2014

Ethics panel gets earful on rule for departing lawyers

A proposed Virginia rule governing law firm splits should recognize that departing lawyers usually leave suddenly, without warning to the firm, according to lawyers who have experienced firm breakups. The chaos and acrimony that often follows a split is on full display in a still unfolding drama involving a group of seven lawyers who left […]

Feb 13, 2014


The Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee of Legal Ethics has jumped into the 21st century with a new draft opinion. It’s a Legal Ethics Opinion on one of those small but significant details left over from a firm break-up: What happens to the old firm’s web address and URL? The hypothetical in proposed LEO 1873 […]

Jan 27, 2014

Lawyer faces ‘ethics emergency’ when client plots against accusers

“What’s wrong with this man?” wondered Warsaw lawyer James Monroe as he sat in a jailhouse meeting room. Monroe’s court-appointed client did not seem to be paying attention to what Monroe was saying. It was Dec. 12, 2012. The lawyer was trying to explain that the man on the other side of the table was […]

Nov 11, 2013

Attorney departures are fraught with risk

Lawyer defections often come with hurt feelings, a sense of betrayed loyalty and bitter recriminations. They also come with ethical snares that can lead to distracting and costly litigation just when both sides need to get on with business. One issue that has arisen in two recent cases is the ethical prohibition on lawyer noncompete […]

Nov 7, 2013

VSB lawyers drop ethics charges over unpaid lien

The Virginia State Bar has dismissed discipline charges against a lawyer for failing to honor a large lien claimed by a pre-settlement funding company. Hampton attorney Stephen M. Smith argued the lender was “using the Virginia State Bar as a means of collection” after demanding a payoff nearly nine times the original advance to his […]

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