New Jersey lawyer Brian LeBon Calpin might still be practicing law instead of serving a suspension for a year if he had only perused the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List. Or if he had followed ABA ethics opinions. Or if he had properly functioning ethics alarms.
A former client, a massage parlor owner, had given him negative online reviews of legal skills and acumen. In retaliation, Calpin posted a negative review of her business, which he later defended with the “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” line. (It’s “sauce for the goose,”not “good,” you illiterate clod!) Calpin wrote,
“Well, Angee is a convicted felon for fleeing the state with children. A wonderful parent. Additionally, she has been convicted of shoplifting from a supermarket. Hide your wallets well during a massage. Oops, almost forgot about the DWI conviction. Well, maybe a couple of beers during the massage would be nice.”
Unfortunately, as Calpin would have known if he attended my last ethics seminar, the ABA has clarified in a recent ethics opinion what other state bar associations have held, which is that just because information about a former client is published and available to someone looking for it, unless it is is generally known as in “widely recognized by members of the public in the relevant geographic area”or “widely recognized in the former client’s industry, profession or trade,” the information is still protected by attorney-client confidentiality, and cannot be disclosed by the client’s lawyer. That’s the professional ethics prohibition on what Calpin did. The Ethics Alarms list explains what’s unethical about “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” in Rationalizations 1, 2, 2A, 7, 11A, 17, 24A, 40A, 53, and 59.
As is usually the case, Calpin’s career shows other evidence of flawed ethics alarms. The disciplinary board noted that he had previously violated ethics rules regarding neglect, diligence, keeping clients informed, delivering client funds or property, and returning client property after representation. He’s lucky that he’ll get his license back after only a year.
Whether New Jersey residents should consider that lucky is another issue.