Colorado Suspends Lawyer for 18 Months For Publicly Shaming Former Clients On the Internet

I can’t say this enough: don’t criticize former clients on the internet or social media. It won’t help you collect your fee bill and it will guarantee discipline from the regulatory body in your state. This social media fiasco was described in a recent case from Colorado.

This case is captioned People v. James C. Underhill, Jr., 15 PDJ 040 (Colorado).

As one might imagine this disaster began with a family law matter in which the lawyer was hired to represent the husband in a post-decree dispute. A fee dispute arose and the clients terminated Underhill.

The opinion states: “The couple [client and his new wife] then posted complaints about Underhill on two websites. He responded with internet postings that publicly shamed the couple by disclosing highly sensitive and confidential information gleaned from attorney-client discussions, in contravention of Colo. RPC 1.6(a) (a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client) and Colo RPC 1.9(c)(2) (a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a former client).

“Underhill then sued the couple for defamation. Although he knew the couple had retained counsel, Underhill communicated with them ex parte on several occasions, even though their counsel repeatedly implored him not to do so. Through this conduct, Underhill violated Colo. RPC 4.2 (a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by counsel in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the opposing counsel). When the lawsuit was dismissed, Underhill brought a second defamation action in a different court, alleging without adequate factual basis that the couple had made other defamatory internet postings. Underhill thereby violated Colo. RPC 3.1 (a lawyer shall not bring a proceeding unless there is a basis in fact for doing so that is not frivolous) and Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct that prejudices the administration of justice).”

The court ordered an 18-month suspension to be added to a prior suspension.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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