Now THIS Is An Unethical Lawyer…In Fact An Unethical ETHICS Lawyer AND A Law Professor! [UPDATED]

breaking-bad

[ My apologies: when this was first posted, I had inadvertently pasted in an excerpt from the Justice press release when I thought I had inserted a link to the complaint. The result was gibberish, and I apologize profusely. Thanks to reader Neil Dorr for alerting me. No more posts composed on my netbook while watching the O.J. miniseries, I promise.]

Today the Justice Department announced a criminal complaint  charging attorney Jack Vitayanon with conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Incredibly, Vitayanon, who is under arrest, is an attorney with the Internal Revenue Service Office of Professional Responsibility in Washington, D.C. That’s the office that monitors IRS lawyers’ ethics. He’s also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where I got my law degree. I’m so proud.

Well, AMC needed a “Breaking Bad’ sequel.

The complaint says that Vitayanon conspired with others in Arizona and on Long Island to distribute methamphetamine for several years.He recently negotiated and competed the sales of distribution quantities of methamphetamine to undercover HSI special agents, and were recorded on internet-based video chats and text messages. Then the professor shipped the methamphetamine from his apartment in Washington D.C. to Long Island via Federal Express.

Vitayanon was also observed in his residence smoking methamphetamine from a glass pipe. A search of the defendant’s Washington D.C. apartment executed pursuant to a warrant led to the seizure of additional quantities of  methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, packaging materials and drug ledgers.

In other words, they’ve got him dead to rights.

The defendant graduated from Dartmouth, got his law degree at Columbia, and received his Masters in Taxation from NYU. A lawyer cannot be admitted to any bar without a showing of reliable and honest character. The system and the profession could not have failed more miserably.

Vitayanon is the criminal, but the legal profession and the IRS allowed the rot to get into works.

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Facts:Washington Post

 

Life Imitates Saul

Lawyer Billboard

 The billboard ad of North Carolina lawyer Larry Archie has drawn a lot of attention in the state and on legal ethics forums.

Some observations:

1. I was a little late seeing “Breaking Bad” ( I tend to avoid show with drug dealers as heroes) so I didn’t see the obvious connection between the popular AMC show’s cynical, unethical and effective slime-ball lawyer Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, and last year’s jaw-dropping—but funny!—video ad for the services of Pittsburgh criminal lawyer Daniel Muessig.

2. This is why we ignore popular culture at our peril….and I think the legal profession needs to stop laughing and start worrying. People really do think Saul who is a criminal lawyer, is typical, and bar associations are doing very little to dissuade them. This is irresponsible, dangerous, and stupid. The profession has a duty to educate the public about how lawyers are supposed to act and why, and if it whiffs on that obligation (as it has for about the last hundred years) public respect for the justice system will continue to drop. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Kiefer Sutherland

“I’ve been mystified by this. You have to understand that we’re not writing foreign policy. This is a dramatic television show, and Jack threatening to blow someone’s knees off because he wants information is a dramatic device to show how urgent or desperate a situation is. It should not be taken as this is what we think the CIA should be doing.”

—–“24” star, as “Jack Bauer,” Kiefer Sutherland, expressing his bewilderment at criticism of his show for depicting a hero who resorts to torture repeatedly, in an interview with United’s in-flight magazine, “Hemispheres.”

jack_bauer_tortureWe shouldn’t criticize actors for not being rocket scientists, or even ethicists. Nonetheless, this comment shows a remarkable ignorance of how a society passes on values and virtues, and the role played by literature, legends and pop culture.

Sutherland is the hero of his show, one of the good guys. What our society depicts the good guys as doing, the values they hold, the virtues they display, the goals they seek and the methods they use to achieve them, both reflects the values of our culture and sends the message that these are the kinds of conduct that the culture wants to encourage. Celebrating as heroes individuals who routinely kill when they are not protecting themselves or the innocent, engage in cruelty, theft, or the abuse of others, or unapologetic law-breaking encourages our younger generations to regard such anti-social conduct as defensible, or even the norm. Continue reading