Today’s Ethics Understatement: “This Story Does Not Encourage Trust In The Legal Profession”

photoshoppinglawyer_screenshot

Svitlana and her fake friends

The ABA Journal informs me this morning that a California bar court judge has recommended a six-month suspension for attorney Svitlana Sangary. Oh, she has some client ethics complaints against her, but that was the least of her problems.

On her firm website, she had posted photographs showing Sangary with politicians and celebrities, including President Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George Clooney, Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Morgan Freeman and Paris Hilton. An expert testified that most or all of the images were photoshopped, making them visual lies. A lawyer is not allowed to lie on her website, or anywhere else when it may mislead clients and the public.

Paris Hilton?

Then Sangary took an unreasonable amount of time responding to inquires from the bar’s investigators. This never goes over well. When she finally cooperates, sort of, she  answered the bar’s allegations with documents described by the bar court judge as “bizarre” and having “little to no rational connection to the charges at hand.” For example, one of them included this inspiring passage:

“Sangary’s American dream has come true, as she has been able to achieve a point wherein now, in her thirties, Sangary is a prominent donor and philanthropist, supporting important social causes, who had recently received the email from President Obama with the subject line ‘I need your help today,’ asking SVITLANA SANGARY for an additional donation.”

What?

Other than the fact that this is gibberish, irrelevant, and ungrammatical irrelevant gibberish, it suggests that she really thinks robo-emails are personal appeals from the President himself. I wonder if she’s heard from that Nigerian prince?

In another highlight, she wrote…

Also, with regard to false statement and misleading advertisement, none other than Natalie Portman comes to mind. the online media extensively covers the controversy surrounding the performance of Natalie Portman in the film “The Black Swan.” The ballet dancer who performed in “The Black Swan,” Sarah Lane, has come forward to revel [ Svitlana’s typo, not mine!] a coverup, and says that Natalie Portman’s head was superimposed on Sarah Lane’s body, and that Natalie Portman lied….Despite the foregoing, Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her performance in “The Black Swan.”

Ah, yes, that variation on “everybody does it,” Natalie Portman did it.

Wowsers.

That’s not all, though. During her ethics trial, Svitlana  refused to answer questions, citing her First Amendment right to remain silent. That’s no typo; that was what she said. Well, heck, anyone can mix up the First and the Fifth Amendments. It’s just that we expect lawyers to know the difference.

The nice bar court judge recommended a six-month suspension and a three-year probation period, and suggested that Sangary should be required to take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam.

Ya think?

Two questions occur to me:

1. Why would a lawyer like this not be disbarred, or at least sent back to the first year of law school, if not junior high school, to learn English, logic, ethics, and the Constitution?

2. How did she graduate from law school and pass the bar exam in the first place?

36 Comments

Filed under Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

36 responses to “Today’s Ethics Understatement: “This Story Does Not Encourage Trust In The Legal Profession”

  1. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Psych exam, anyone?

  2. Bob Stone

    Svitlana speak English and think no goodly.

    How did she pass the Bar?

  3. Chris Marschner

    Perhaps she should enlist Gloria Alred to plead her case.

  4. Neil Dorr

    Jack,
    In the first quote she referred to herself in the 3rd person? That in itself is enough to justify ignoring whatever else came after.

  5. Rich (in CT)

    To be fair, her Photoshopped images were bad enough to likely not constitute an actual lie. The suspension thus seems in proportion to the inanity of her response to the inquiry; she clearly had a fool for a client representing herself before the bar.

  6. Patrice

    Has anyone actually checked to see that she in fact DID graduate from law school and DID pass the bar? One would presume that the judge’s law clerk and the bar association have done so, but I don’t have great confidence in anything regarding this case, except that we are in legal Bizarro World.

  7. JutGory

    Jack: “That’s not all, though. During her ethics trial, Svitlana refused to answer questions, citing her First Amendment right to remain silent. That’s no typo; that was what she said. Well, heck, anyone can mix up the First and the Fifth Amendments. It’s just that we expect lawyers to know the difference.”

    Jack, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, which includes the right not to speak. The Fifth Amendment only applies in criminal cases. An Ethics case is not criminal.

    I think her answer was better than yours.

    -Jut

    • Mike

      Is this a joke. If so, then I’ve missed seeing this kind of humor from you. It works as a joke. I just can’t tell if this is tongue in cheek.

      • JutGory

        No, it is not a joke. You cannot be compelled to incriminate yourself under the Fifth Amendment. You cannot even be compelled to testify in a criminal case. You can be compelled to testify in a civil case, but you cannot be compelled to incriminate yourself, though a negative inference may be drawn from asserting one’s 5th Amendment rights in a civil proceeding.

        Here, where there is an alleged ethics violation that implicates no criminal law, there is neither a 5th Amendment right not to testify, nor a 5th Amendment right not to incriminate yourself. There is only a First Amendment right not to speak.

        Now, whether that would leave one in contempt is a different matter.

        No, not a joke. How do you think it works as a joke?

        -Jut

        • Bob Stone

          “During her ethics trial, Svitlana refused to answer questions, citing her First Amendment right to remain silent.”

          I see the initial confusion now. While JutGlory’s recitation of 5th Amendment law is correct, Jack’s initial reaction is more correct; i.e. that citing a First Amendment right to remain silent in a court proceeding is meaningless. Furthermore, it’s idiotic coming from a lawyer.

          When the threat to the witness is non-criminal, e.g. the loss of a substantial amount of money through fines or forfeiture,
          The First Amendment will not trump the court’s power to compel the testimony, Failure to answer at that point empowers the court to find the witness in contempt and thereby penalize her for her silence.

          Thus Svitlana’s answer regarding her First Amendment right to be silent is meaningless.

          • Bob Stone

            Should have written: “the First Amendment will not trump the court’s power to compel the testimony. Failure to answer at that point empowers the court to find the witness in contempt and thereby penalize her for her silence.”

            • Bob Stone

              Feeling like an idiot for rushing: “When the threat to the witness is non-criminal, e.g. the loss of a substantial amount of money through fines or forfeiture, the [Fifth Amendment does not apply and the ] First Amendment [also] will not trump the court’s power to compel the testimony. Failure to answer at that point empowers the court to find the witness in contempt and thereby penalize her for her silence.”

        • Bob Stone

          “Court proceeding” is synonymous with “ethics trial” here since the body asking the questions has the power to penalize for failure to answer.

    • What? The Fifth Amendment can still apply in non-criminal cases, especially mandatory hearings like Ethics trials. A recent example is still a big current controversy: Lois Lerner of the IRS invoked the 5th during a Congressional hearing, which wasn’t even a civil trial.

      There is no such thing as invoking the First Amendment not to testify: a court can certainly compel testimony, which is why judges can order a witness to answer a question under oath—unless it involves self-incrimination, and that’s the Fifth Amendment.

      Svitlana had no idea what she was doing.

      • JutGory

        Yes, and Lerner’s comments, as I expect you would agree, is more idiotic than this woman’s. You cannot maintain your innocence and your right not to incriminate yourself.
        -Jut

        • For a lawyer, nothing is much more idiotic than confusing the First and Fifth Amendment in a disciplinary hearing. Maybe confusing the Second and Fifth is worse…

          • JutGory

            Yeah, but Lerner did not even get around to understanding the 5th, much less the 1st. And worse, her interrogators fumbled around without the ability to respond to her idiocy. I still think Svitlana, however idiotic her statement, said something smarter.
            -Jut

        • No, that’s not only untrue, it’s untrue as matter of law. No one is allowed to make an assumption of guilt from the assertion of a Constitutional right. One may refuse to testify to avoid subjecting oneself to criminal prosecution, whether one is actually guilty or not.

  8. Alex

    It’s obvious. She passed the bar because her buddy Bill put in a good word for her.

  9. So, are you telling me that the email I just received from President Obama asking me to help the cause did not come directly from him and that I am not on his personal email contact list? Well. That’s a shame. I guess I will be happy the I just won the Nigerian lottery, and $35 million dollars at that! I hope my bank gets the funds soon because I could really use the money to but the Brooklyn Bridge.

    jvb

  10. dragin_dragon

    In answer to your question #1, because of “English, logic, ethics, and the Constitution”, only English, of a sort, is still taught in junior high school.

  11. wyogranny

    Is that Ricky Ricardo in one of those photos? That one is clearly authentic.

  12. Do the celebrities have reason to protest use of their images in her marketing?

  13. Ryan

    The State Bar says that Svitlana Sangary is no longer eligible to practice law http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/232282

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