Remember California Attorney Mary Frances Prevost, Who Plagiarized Ethics Alarms? Guess What!

Yup, I saw THIS coming...

Yup, I saw THIS coming…

She’s been suspended.

For the third time.


To recap…Back in 2012, Mary Frances, who  describes herself on her website as “California’s Top Criminal & DUI Attorney,” posted an essay allegedly authored by her called  “The Trayvon Martin Case Trainwreck: George Zimmerman’s Attorneys Need To Shut Up!”

Oddly, it was posted the same day and shortly after my Ethics Alarms post, “Next To Board The Trayvon Martin Ethics Train Wreck? Why, The Lawyers, Of Course!”

Mary Frances’s was almost word for word the same post, plus some original material at the end. She had ripped me off. She hadn’t even tried to disguise it. This is called stealing, and I believe, shows that an individual lacks the honesty and trustworthiness to practice law.

I took three deep breaths, wrote a post about her plagiarism, e-mailed Prevost and required four things. First, an explanation if she had one; then an apology, a retraction, and proper credit. I didn’t demand damages, as I could have.

Mary Frances’s response was astounding. She didn’t have the courtesy to respond to my e-mail, but went on Facebook to accuse me of plagiarizing her, a neat trick, since my post pre-dated hers. Then she insulted me repeatedly, apparently unaware of how hypocritical it is to claim another lawyer is lacking in legal analysis skills and writing ability when you just published his essay as your own. I posted her whole rant here; it is deranged, making it especially funny that she accused me of being “off my meds.”

The Facebook post was defamation per se: malicious, and deliberately false. I contacted a California attorney, who agreed it was defamation, but said that based on her reputation, he felt it would  not be worth the money, the trouble or all the attacks she was capable of to go to war with her. He also dissuaded me from filing an ethics complaint, saying that unlike some states, California frowns on ethics complaints when there are grounds for lawsuits, and also tends to discount complaints from non-California lawyers.

“Just wait,” he said. “She’ll get hers. Lawyers like this almost always do.” Continue reading

Why Is A Lying Journalist Not Fit To Practice Law, When A Lying Presidential Candidate Is?

Question: Which two men are fit to practice law? (It's a trick question...)

Question: Which two men are fit to practice law? (It’s a trick question…)

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog muses on an issue that has troubled me for a long time: the fact that the legal profession allows people to keep practicing law whose conduct would have kept them out of the profession had it occurred before they were lawyers.

The reason for the current examination is the apparent inconsistency of disgraced New Republic journalist Stephen Glass continuing to fight and uphill battle (and, I think, doomed) to be admitted to the California bar, while lying scum-of-the-earth John Edwards still has his law license and is opening up a new practice in North Carolina. I wrote about Glass here, and Edwards here.

In the Journal piece, estimable legal ethicist Stephen Gillers opines that the different standards applied to Glass and Edwards are paradoxical,  with the law grads entering the profession being held to more stringent ethical standards  than a veteran attorneys. “If anything, you might say it should be the opposite,” he says.

Especially if the veteran lawyer is a high-profile, national figure who makes every other lawyer want to crawl under a rock… Continue reading

The Plagiarist Strikes Back!

Move along, Atticus. Nothing to see here, and I wouldn't want you to barf.

Well, some of you called it. I was a sap. I expected better.

Mary Frances Prevost, the California criminal law attorney who substantially expropriated an Ethics Alarms post and placed her name on it, responded to my request for an explanation, and failing that, an apology, a retraction, and proper credit, with this (on her Facebook page), in which she said, in part:

“I received a histrionic run-on-sentence email from someone named “Jack Marshall” today accusing me of committing crimes, threatening to report me to my bar association(s), the Inns of Court, and essentially spend your days and nights harassing me.” I have also viewed a a highly unethical rant published purportedly by you on a blog suggesting strongly that I have engaged in unethical conduct throughout the entire course of my career. I have counseled with one of the country’s premiere ethics attorneys. Here’s the result: 1) accusing me of a crime is defamation per se and unethical; 2) suggesting that my entire law practice has been based on unethical conduct is defamatory and unethical. I maintained copies both of your email and blog. It is clear that you are hell bent on engaging in systematic harassment and unethical conduct, the likes of which can, and most likely will, develop into a lawsuit unless rescinded forthwith. It is clear you have little to do in your life besides sent me emails accusing me of crimes, and writing poorly written blog posts accusing me of immoral behavior. Interesting how one making such claims, engages in most egregious conduct himself….But the sheer amount of energy really suggests something more: a lack of work; too much time; off your meds. I suggest you take a look inward and remove your defamatory and unethical blog post regarding me. Indeed, you should come clean on your blog. You’ve practiced law only two weeks before giving up. Yet, your resume suggests far more experience. I think you should rethink what you’ve done.”

Now how do you like that? Continue reading

Is a Plagiarist a Trustworthy Attorney? Let’s Ask Mary Frances Prevost!

This is me, apparently.

San Diego criminal defense attorney Mary Frances Prevost has an interesting post on her blog about the ethics of George Zimmerman’s first set of attorneys.


You wouldn’t know it was mine, of course, because blogger/attorney/ former Washington Post journalist Prevost has slapped her own name on it. There it is, right at the beginning: “by Mary Francis Prevost.” I think that’s interesting.

Her post, entitled “The Trayvon Martin Case Trainwreck: George Zimmerman’s Attorneys Need To Shut Up!”, was posted the same day as the Ethics Alarms post, “Next To Board The Trayvon Martin Ethics Train Wreck? Why, The Lawyers, Of Course!”, which began, coincidentally enough, by quoting John Steel’s post from the Legal Ethics Forum that read, “[S]hut up, guys. Shut the h*** up.”  It was two introductory paragraphs later, however, when “her” post got into the substance of “her” analysis of the ethical problems with the farewell press conference given by George Zimmerman’s attorneys shortly before the shooter of Trayvon Martin was charged, however, that I really began getting a serious dose of deja vu, also known as “Holy crap! This woman stole my article!” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: How Unethical Is This Lawyer?

"Dr." Susan Friery with "Bowser", who for the last ten years has claimed to be a poodle.

Newburyport (Mass.) lawyer Susan Friery, a partner at the New York-based law firm Kreindler & Kreindler, has been suspended from being able to practice law in Massachusetts until February 2014.

Why? Two years..that seems pretty stiff. Well, it seems that from the time she joined the firm as a part-time paralegal and medical consultant in 1986 to her resignation, she represented her self to the firm and its clients as an MD.  Friery joined the law firm in August 1986 . In truth, she had only completed taken four semesters of medical courses at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, and never got a degree. But she got her entre into the  firm by falsely claiming that she had graduated from another school, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York. In 1989, the firm paid most of her tuition to law school,and by 1993, Friery became an associate, specializing in medical malpractice cases and personal injury law suits with medical injuries. Her name appeared with the title MD or Dr. on the firm’s letterhead, business cards, legal correspondence and other documents filed in numerous courts.

Court documents also show that Friery presented herself as a doctor at seminars and meetings. By 1998, the law firm had included Friery’s alleged medical credentials in its web-based advertising.

Your Ethics Quiz for today, therefore, is this…TWO YEARS??? I’m sorry, let me calm down. <big breath> Ok, here’s the question:

Do you think a suspension of two years for 25 years of falsely holding oneself out to the public as well as colleagues as a medical doctor is sufficient punishment? Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Joe Klein and Chris Matthews

John Edwards agrees with Chris Matthews

Journalist Joe Klein has been a candidate for an Ethics Dunce award for a long time, because he has been ethically suspect or worse for a long time. His defining integrity moment came when he lied about his authorship of the Bill Clinton roman-a-clef, “Primary Colors.” Since that time, Klein has gradually evolved into a shamelessly biased and ethically muddled political commentator from the left. Too bad. He’s a perceptive guy and a wonderful writer, but he makes his living now shooting from the hip, so we seldom get the benefit of his best qualities.

It was inevitable that the Chris Matthews Show would allow Klein’s ethical blindness to reach full flower.  Matthews has been on his own journey of self-diminishment since MSNBC decided to become the anti-Fox; where once he could be counted on to treat the issues of the day fairly and avoid partisan cheerleading, the Obama years have seen him abandon any effort at objectivity or even-handedness. Matthews’ Sunday morning panel show now eschews ideological balance and has Matthews posing questions to a rotating group of reliable conservative-bashers, with an occasional straight journalist mixed in who at least pretends to be neutral.  On Sunday, Matthews asked his panel about the appropriateness of the Justice Department’s prosecution of uber-cad John Edwards for violations of the federal election laws. It’s not a bad question, and reasonable people can disagree about the answer. The charges against Edwards stem from solicitation of large cash gifts from two long-time friends and supporters while he was simultaneously running for president and trying to cover up the existence of his love-child with Rielle Hunter and the adulterous affair that spawned her.  The money was given directly to Hunter, raising a legal question as to whether it was really a campaign contribution at all. Continue reading

Legal Ethics Train Wreck on “The Good Wife”

Oh, Alicia, Alicia...what have they done to you?

The CBS legal drama “The Good Wife” continues to show the seamy side of big firm legal practice, with heroine Alicia Florrick’s firm, Lockhart, Gardner and Bond, its adversaries, and even Good Alicia herself violating legal ethics rules with abandon, and at an accelerating rate, based on recent episodes. There is nothing wrong with this as entertainment, as long as the Rules themselves are not being misrepresented (they aren’t), the misconduct isn’t being presented as ethical (it isn’t, though it is sometimes hard to tell), and viewers don’t get the idea that this is how most law firms behave. Unfortunately, like most legal shows, “The Good Wife” fails in this important realm. I work with many large law firms, and they are all very aware on the ethical lines, bold or fuzzy, that they must not cross, and take their obligations seriously.

The most recent episode of “The Good Wife,” entitled “Getting Off” included a full-fledged ethics train wreck sparked by the firm’s habitually unethical adversary, the fecund Patti Nyholm. In the middle of representing the defendant hospital in a lawsuit brought by a Lockhart, Gardner and Bond, Nyholm is fired by her firm and removed from the case. With a twinkle in her eye, she approaches none other than the Lockhart firm to represent her in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against her former firm for discrimination and wrongful termination, on the theory that it fired her because she was pregnant. Continue reading

Just So You Know The Legal Profession Is Trying…

The Massachusetts bar has suspended a lawyer for six months for running an advertisement on Craigslist offering to write  papers and essays for students to turn in as their own. The state Board of Bar Overseers of the state Supreme Judicial Court issued a memorandum April 1 announcing that lawyer Damian R. Bonazzoli was suspended from practice.  He also lost his job lost his job with the state Appeals Court.

Good. Continue reading

I’m Worried About “The Good Wife”

Shape up, Alicia.

CBS’s “The Good Wife” seems to be getting more cavalier with its ethics breaches, a disappointing trend. Showing the ethical fudging that undoubtedly goes on behind the scenes at major law firms (on occasion) is appropriate; treating major violations with a shrug is not. I know it is tempting for the show to assume it has the intelligent legal TV show championship sewed up, since “the Defenders” is a joke and “Harry’s Law” is a disgrace, but it’s standards have been high, and it is dispiriting to see them flag with such missteps such as…

  • Prosecutorial misconduct casually brushed off as nothing. When Alicia asks why a videotape  is so much clearer than the one the prosecutor’s office turned over as evidence, she is told that what she received before was a copy of a copy of a copy–“just to mess with you.” Continue reading

“The Good Wife” Ethics Follies

“The Good Wife,” CBS’s legal drama starring Julianna Margulies, began as an unusually nuanced show of its type that presented intriguing ethical dilemmas without crossing into David Kelley’s over-the-top Legal Theater of the Absurd. Little by little, however, the show’s willingness to ignore core legal ethics principles is becoming more pronounced. “Boom,” which aired last week, continues a trend that is ominous, considering “The Good Wife” is still in its first season. After all, the lawyers in Kelley’s “The Practice” didn’t start finding severed heads and getting charged with murder until a couple of seasons in.

If you missed “Boom,” or if you didn’t but had misplaced your A.B.A. Model Rules of Professional Conduct, here are the legal ethics howlers committed by the “Good Wife’s” attorneys: Continue reading