Kings County Criminal Bar Association gets ethics update from attorney Michael Ross
The Kings County Criminal Bar Association hosted ethics attorney Michael S. Ross for its monthly continuing legal education (CLE) meeting that was held at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Thursday.
“When it comes to ethics law there certainly aren’t many people more qualified,” KCCBA President Michael Cibella said. “He’s the ethics attorney. He’s the one that you never want to call, but he’s the one you are definitely going to be calling on that fateful day when we get a complaint.”
Ross gives regular lectures on ethics to various bar associations throughout the city including past KCCBA meetings. Ross is a former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and was also an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He also lectures at local law schools including Brooklyn Law School and Cardozo.
“I believe that the ethics rules empower lawyers,” Ross said. “For people who think that ethics is just about not stealing money, which is always a good idea — not stealing money, but that’s an oversimplification. What I try to do is to select some cases and opinions that would make a difference in your life that would give you more power and a better understanding of how the rules work in your favor while at the same time treating clients fairly. “
Some of the most common ethics complaint lawyers get involves not responding to clients in a timely fashion and splitting up with a client once an attorney/client relationship has soured.
Ross discussed what makes these rules complicated and, throughout the lecture, suggested that attorneys always take notes of their interactions with clients and document the good faith steps that they have made to avoid problems.
He also referenced the NYS Bar Association’s recently published “Ethics Opinion 1144,” which states that a lawyer may place reasonable limitations on communications with a client, and if a breakdown in communication occurs to the point that representation cannot be carried out effectively that the attorney may seek to withdraw from representing the client.
“It says that a lawyer is entitled to put limitations on how and when you are going to speak with a client,” Ross said. “It used to be, and some judges believed, that you always had to be available with a client, you had to meet them when they wanted you to. That can’t be the rule. It defies common sense. You are entitled to put reasonable limitations on when you meet with a client and when you speak with them.”
KCCBA will meet again on March 22 and Justice Dineen Riviezzo will lecture on the new Raise the Age legislation that will treat 16- and 17-year-olds as minors, rather than adults in criminal matters.
Cibella also announced the second annual KCCBA charity golf outing has been scheduled for July 19. Last year, money raised by the outing was donated to the YWCA of Brooklyn and to the NY Foundling, Family Risings, which works with juvenile justice.
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