« A Bipartisan Federalism Alternative? | Main | Problems of scope and nomenclature in nationwide injunctions »

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Better Call Saul does professional responsibility

If Season 1 of Better Call Saul brought us impact civil litigation, and Season 2 brought us competition for clients, Season 3 is poised to bring us the attorney-disciplinary process. As things stand entering Episode 3-04, Chuck baited Jimmy into first confessing to tampering with some documents, then to committing a series of crimes, including felony breaking-and-entering. And the plea deal the prosecution offers Jimmy (at Chuck's manipulative suggestion) is pretrial diversion in exchange for a confession, which will be presented to the State Ba. The premise is that confession of a felony would mean disbarment. So we seem to be gearing up to see Jimmy litigating an attorney-disciplinary proceeding in the coming weeks.

Is confession to a felony per se, unaccompanied by jail time, grounds for disbarment (as opposed to suspension or reprimand)? And if the goal is to get Jimmy disbarred, wouldn't tampering with documents in a legal proceeding be stronger grounds than criminal charges resulting from a dispute between two brothers?

I look forward to seeing it play out, although we know the outcome--Jimmy will continue practicing law, just not as Jimmy McGill.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 26, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink


It really depends on the jurisdiction. In Wisconsin, an attorney who counseled a client under criminal investigation to wipe a laptop was given a public reprimand. http://archive.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/schimel-didnt-prosecute-attorney-who-removed-files-in-john-doe-probe-b99367499z1-278579511.html

Posted by: Angsting Anon | Apr 29, 2017 11:40:53 AM

If Jimmy can enter, the specific fight to me might not matter.

I agree the season leaves something to be desired. The overall tendency to draw things out really bothered me in the second episode specifically.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 26, 2017 3:09:20 PM

Re: state bar's interest in document tampering. I once had a case where the civil defendant (a real estate attorney) admitted under oath that he fraudulently conveyed +1M in property, backdating the deeds in the process and recording the false docs with the local state court clerk. Seemed pretty egregious to me. The state bar was so outraged they gave him a public reprimand. Go figure.

Posted by: anon | Apr 26, 2017 1:21:38 PM

Also, can we discuss how mediocre this season has been so far?

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Apr 26, 2017 12:52:48 PM

The exchange between Jimmy and Chuck shows he wasn't there out of medical concern for his brother, and there's two witnesses to that.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Apr 26, 2017 12:34:54 PM

Can Jimmy claim he had access to the house in part because of his concern for the well being of Chuck? He can potentially say the emotion of the situation, including lack of trust, mitigates his attack on Chuck.

A need to show destruction of evidence or some similar act connected to alteration of the documents would seem to be very important for disbarment to be a true threat. A tricky thing. And, that makes HHM look bad too.

I think HHM in effect aiding and abetting this whole sting is dubious.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 26, 2017 11:58:57 AM

I think you may be forgetting Chuck's discussion with Howard about the tape. Of course tampering with with documents is going to be a whole lot worse as far as the state bar is concerned. But the problem there is proving it's Jimmy on the tape. They mention that Jimmy can easily get an expert to dispute if it's Jimmy's voice or not.

What they don't mention is that Jimmy would easily be able to establish motive for Chuck faking the tape. Chuck is already a known nut. He's also just been incredibly embarrassed and has reason to want to preserve his reputation as a competent attorney. And, Jimmy knows that it was Chuck who kept him from getting a job at HHM. He doesn't think of Jimmy as a real lawyer, and that'd be consistent with faking evidence to get him disbarred.

The break in, on the other hand, is clear cut and has multiple witnesses.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Apr 26, 2017 10:22:39 AM

How would the tampering with documents in a legal proceeding be proved?

These crimes resulting from a dispute between two brothers does seem like something that might not get you disbarred, especially if it comes out one of the brothers is a tad mentally unhinged.

On some level, it seems to me Chuck is letting his feud and hatred of Jimmy overwhelm his sense of judgment, Chuck's self-assurance at his intelligence probably part of the mix. His "big idea" here to me still seems like something that might blow up in his face.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 26, 2017 10:02:06 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.