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A lawyer's client sent me a mild threat via text message. I have contacted the attorney on 4 separate occasions requesting an explanation/response from the attorney. They have not responded. Are there any ethics rules regarding this lawyer's conduct and failure to respond? Thx.

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    What is the relevant jurisdiction? How is this a pro hac vice issue? – bdb484 Aug 11 '18 at 22:37
  • The opposing lawyer is from Texas (where his license is) but the jurisdiction is Florida, I believe. This is an issue with someone based in Florida that I do advisory work. You can read more here:law.stackexchange.com/questions/30708/… – Sizzle Aug 12 '18 at 0:14
  • The Texas lawyer is representing the Florida guy. I am based in NJ. I asked where he is licensed and he told me this (exactly): "I am licensed in the State of Texas and have been admitted on a pro hac vice basis for a case I am handling in Florida. I am not licensed as an attorney in Florida." – Sizzle Aug 12 '18 at 0:16
  • I am asking this as a "pro hac vice" issue, because of what the attorney told me. I want to know if there are any rules of conduct for lawyers acting in pro hac vice, that he is violating. Thx. – Sizzle Aug 12 '18 at 0:26
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    @Sizzle That's correct. Just beware that both statutes 686.201 and 686.417 refer to reasonable (rather than actual) attorney fees. This means that a prevailing plaintiff might be reimbursed less than 100% of his legal bills. If you're interested how "reasonable attorney fees" are assessed, see Florida Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. v. Gray, 232 So.3d 478 (2017) and/or other cases using the "lodestar process". Best luck on your matter. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 13 '18 at 18:10
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Are there any ethics rules regarding this lawyer's conduct and failure to respond?

Yes.

A lawyer admitted pro hac vice will typically be obligated to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct for both the jurisdiction in which he is barred and in the jurisdiction in which he had been admitted pro hac vice.

Both Texas and Florida have substantially adopted the ABA's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which require a lawyer to act diligently and promptly on his client's behalf. This requires an attorney to act on his client's behalf in a reasonably timely way, which the attorney in your hypothetical sounds like he is not be doing.

By failing to respond to correspondence from an opposing party, an attorney can weaken his client's position or even affirmatively subject his client to new obligations. I'm not sure exactly what kind of correspondence you're imagining, but any attorney worth his salt could come up with plenty of ways that failing to communicate with an adverse party could harm the client: subjecting him to new contract obligations under UCC 2-207, allowing a settlement offer to lapse, pissing off the opposing party enough to move ahead with a lawsuit, or pissing off the judge who eventually handles the case, who will be none too happy to see that one side was being intransigent.

If such a failure to communicate diligently and promptly was not reasonable, the lawyer could be subject to discipline.

Practically speaking, though, none of this is likely very relevant for your purposes. My understanding is that unless you're the client, most states wouldn't even permit you to file any kind of complaint against the attorney based on this type of conduct. The ABA rules do impose obligations on attorneys with respect to their dealings with third parties -- they must be honest and fair, but a violation usually requires a more affirmative act than just failing to respond to your correspondence.

Again, I'm not sure exactly what you're asking about, but if this is a real legal dispute, you should consult a real attorney, as the advice available on the Internet is often exactly wrong.

  • I think it's funny and pointless to post on someone else's earlier answer the comment "This seems pretty incorrect", and yet hours later paraphrase that person's answer for the sake of "contributing" a "new" one. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 13 '18 at 0:21
  • If you really think "yes" is a paraphrase of "no," I'd say that highlights the need for an answer separate from yours. – bdb484 Aug 19 '18 at 13:06
  • It is not the conclusory yes-no portion of the answer. It is the substance, such as the lawyer's duty to act diligently on his client's behalf, or your statement that "unless you're the client" the OP would not be permitted to report the attorney's delay as misconduct. These are nothing more than paraphrases of what I wrote a few hours prior to your answer (and prior to your criticism in the comments). Others can tell the sequence in which who wrote what; but that's ok, you are entitled to pretend they cannot. No big deal. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 19 '18 at 13:25
  • I remain flummoxed by your objection. The substance of our answers are hardly paraphrases, as yours is replete with legal errors: (1) PHV admission typically does, in fact, subject a lawyer to additional obligations (see the ABA model rules), (2) filing deadlines don't address the OP's question (dealing with informal communications), (3) opposing parties and courts, as well as the client, may hold a lawyer accountable for missed deadlines (see FRCP 11, 12, 37, 55, etc.), and (4) courts won't hold a client in contempt when his lawyer blows a deadline. – bdb484 Aug 22 '18 at 5:58
  • Even if the substance of your answer did not include those errors and even if it were identical to mine, your failure to reach the correct yes/no conclusion based on that analysis would still be a serious deficiency meriting a separate (i.e. correct) answer to the question ("Are there any ethics rules regarding this lawyer's conduct?"). The correct answer is "yes"; you answered "no." – bdb484 Aug 22 '18 at 5:59
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Are there any ethics rules regarding this lawyer's conduct and failure to respond?

No. Typically the rules of so-called "professional conduct" are that the lawyer owes diligence to his client, whereas the rules would say nothing about diligence toward the adversary. Pro hac vice does not subject that attorney to a higher standard than what local lawyers are expected to meet.

If anything, a form of "diligence" toward the adversary can be somewhat enforced through the deadlines stated in court rules (or rules of civil procedure) for the various phases or elements of a lawsuit.

From that standpoint, the deadline to file a response (whether it is responsive pleadings, response to a motion, discovery requests, answers to a request for admissions, and so forth) is a way of converting diligence toward the adversary into diligence toward the attorney's client. That is because the attorney must meet the procedural deadlines for following up with the tasks that representing a client entails: motion/request/other that you initiate through court proceedings.

In any case, the attorney's missing of procedural deadline(s) constitutes misconduct that only his client may denounce (or at least hold him accountable). If the attorney/adversary missed a deadline to comply with a court order, the adversary and/or his attorney might be found guilty for civil contempt and/or be sanctioned.

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    This seems pretty incorrect. Do you have any cases to support the proposition that no ethics rules address the lawyer's failure to respond? – bdb484 Aug 12 '18 at 13:38
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    @bdb484 Do you have any basis to argue why this seems "incorrect"? The Florida RPC don't suggest failure to respond to a client's actual or potential adversary is contrary to lawyer's ethics. Rules 4-1.3 and 4-1.4 only refer to the lawyer's duty of diligence and communication toward his client; a "mild threat" is unlikely to trigger 4-3.4 or 4-4.1(b); OP is not a disciplinary entity; and it is unlikely that 4-4.3(a) would apply when it is unclear whether the lawyer has filed an appearance in court or that proceedings have even started. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 12 '18 at 15:18
  • There has been nothing filed as of yet. The attorney contacted me to propose settlement ideas. Now I have not heard from him in over a week (1 voicemail, 3 emails). Could this just be a signal that he expects me to get an attorney to resolve this? I do not know...because he will not respond. – Sizzle Aug 12 '18 at 16:04
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    @Sizzle (1) You are entitled to proceed in pro per (beginning with the exhaustion of administrative remedies, if any are required prior to filing suit in court), so he shouldn't expect you to get an attorney. (2) He or his client might have changed their mind about the settlement proposal(s). (3) It is also possible that he is failing his duty of diligence with respect to his client; many people denounce [via online reviews or with attorney disciplinary boards] that their lawyer doesn't get back to them, and I've heard of attorneys getting sanctioned by an appellate court for belated filings. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 12 '18 at 17:42
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    The duty to communicate with parties adverse to your client is one of the most basic and obvious duties of diligence to the client. Whether they're responding to a legal threat, requesting clarification of a demand letter, proposing to settle a dispute, or making their own legal threats, ignoring those communications rarely improves the client's position and can often affirmatively prejudice the client. But again, if you've got cases saying that the professional-conduct rules don't address the failure to respond to adverse parties I'd love to see them. – bdb484 Aug 12 '18 at 23:14

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