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Law School Case Brief

La. State Bar Ass'n v. Sanders - 568 So. 2d 1025 (La. 1990)

Rule:

Transactions between a lawyer and client are closely scrutinized because of the advantage held by a lawyer in dealing with a lay person. When a lawyer is guilty of overreaching in dealing with a client, an appropriate punishment must be imposed. Determining the proper discipline involves weighing the attorney's conduct in light of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

Facts:

Plaintiff Louisiana State Bar Association brought a disciplinary proceeding against defendant attorney after he was adjudged guilty of acquiring a proprietary interest in his client's cause of action. The appointed commissioner determined that the defendant attorney unintentionally violated the Louisiana Code of Professional Responsibility and suggested an 18-month suspension. The defendant appealed.

Issue:

Was the 18-month suspension of the defendant attorney appropriate for acquiring a proprietary interest in his client’s cause of action?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court considered aggravating circumstances, including the fact that the amount of the attorney's compensation cast doubt on his good faith and that the attorney failed to account for the funds. The court also found mitigating circumstances, such as that the attorney's first acquisition was not a litigious right, the attorney's transgression was unintentional, and the client was not financially harmed by the transaction. The court concluded that nine months' suspension from the practice of law was an appropriate sanction.

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