Can a Lawyer Respond to an Opposing Party Email?

A defendant in a personal injury suit lost in arbitration and her lawyer sought trial de novo.  The defendant sent an email to plaintiff’s counsel stating that she, as the party, did not want a trial and complained that her counsel and insurance carrier were continuing to defend the case.

What steps should a lawyer take when receiving such an email?

The relevant rule in Florida is Rule of Professional Conduct 4-4.2 (Communications With Persons Represented by Counsel): “…a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter [unless the other lawyer consents.”  In Florida, the Rule applies “even though the represented person initiates or consents to the communication” (see Rule Comments).

The facts described above occurred in Denise Engstrom v. Rebecca Harsten Goodman et al.  Washington State’s rule 4.2 appears similar, if not identical, to the Florida rule.  The court held that the lawyer should not have continued communications with the party (which included several steps of further communication, including getting the defendant to sign an affidavit).  The court held the appropriate steps would be to cease communication as well as advise opposing counsel and/or inform the court.

Florida lawyers are reminded that the Rules of Conduct are always available online at FloridaBar.org (more specifically, here) and also available in a free iTunes app (link, here).

Ethics
Florida Supreme Court Allows Judges to be Facebook Friends With Lawyers But Four Justices Disagree With the Practice (“I write to strongly urge judges not to participate in Facebook”)

The Florida Supreme Court resolved a conflict between two intermediate appellate courts when it determined that a judge-lawyer “Facebook friend” relationship, alone, was not enough to warrant recusal of the judge.  The Court deemed its position was the majority position around the country.  However, four justices noted that caution, if …

Ethics
Legal Ethics (presented by Christopher Hopkins) at NBI Estate Administration Boot Camp

A special thank you to NBI for inviting me to speak about legal ethics at their “Estate Administration Boot Camp” in Hollywood, Florida this year. There is still time to register or get the audio CLE, here. Some (unusual) ethical issues we covered: Statistics on Florida Bar disciplinary actions (what …

Ethics
A Lot of Lawyers Claim That They Accept Bitcoin… But Are They Doing It Wrong?

A lawyers’ ethics committee appointed by the Nebraska Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding whether lawyers in that state could receive payments in bitcoin; receive payments from third parties in bitcoin; and/or hold bitcoin for their clients.  This applies to any digital currency.  The committee was clearly well-informed and wrote …