The best legal ethics story I have ever heard and probably ever will hear arose in Arizona in 2010. I have regaled CLE seminars with it many times since, and it is ever green. After I mentioned the case again today at a Federal Bar convention program, I found myself wondering if I had ever posted about the weird episode on Ethics Alarms. Indeed I had, but it was way back in September of 2010.Here’s how long ago that was: Instagram didn’t yet exist, the statement that Donald Trump would be the next President might get you committed, and the only commenter on the post was “JJ,” whom I have completely forgotten.
Clearly, it’s time for an encore, so here it is, slightly expanded.
Is it unethical for a lawyer to claim she is possessed by a client’s dead wife?
This question has been puzzling professional responsibility experts for decades. Okay, not really. In fact, surprisingly, it just doesn’t happen all that often. But in Arizona, a lawyer is now facing suspension for claiming that she was possessed by the spirit of a client’s dead wife, then lying about it under oath. The dead wife is being accused of illegal immigration.
OK, I made up that part, too.
The ABA Journal reports that the lawyer, Charna Johnson, began representing a client during his divorce proceedings. While the divorce was in process, the client’s wife, who was fighting many demons even before she got in the possession business, committed suicide. Johnson then represented the husband in probate proceedings, but one day became convinced, according to her sworn testimony and that of two witnesses, that the client’s wife had possessed her, like that real demon, Pazuzu. Continue reading