August 31, 2007

Nifong Is Held in (More) Contempt
— Gabriel Malor

Mike Nifong has been sentenced to one day in jail for lying to the court. Nifong had claimed in court that he gave the lacrosse defense team all the documents related to the DNA evidence.

Notice that Nifong is getting punished for lying to the court, not for lying to the defendants.

h/t to Paulitics.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 01:44 PM | Comments (20)
Post contains 67 words, total size 1 kb.

1

Wow.  I'd call that "starting off on the wrong foot."


Posted by: Rocketeer at August 31, 2007 01:45 PM (GFaLW)

2

Every time I see a rat, it turns out there's a bigger rat to keep him in line.


One day???


Posted by: A. Truman North at August 31, 2007 01:48 PM (/HWA9)

3 He deserves three months.

Posted by: Dr. Chopper at August 31, 2007 01:50 PM (6uQzT)

4 I'd prefer the maximum sentence, but he's lost his job, his reputation and is facing hefty lawsuits from the REAL victims in this case.  That's good enough I suppose.

Posted by: John at August 31, 2007 01:50 PM (G+J91)

5 One day?  ONE FUCKING DAY!!!  For pity's sake, defendants on the other side of one of our cases got three days for contempt for telling a judge in open court they didn't have to obey a discovery order.  This?  Rather more important than that.  Crikey. 

Posted by: alexthechick at August 31, 2007 01:51 PM (Le6Pm)

6 let Gary "BigHands" Johnson do the body cavity check. Prep for jailhouse love

Posted by: Frank G at August 31, 2007 01:52 PM (Ydps9)

7 Is there any law forbidding lawyers from lying to those they are in dispute with? It appears lying and fraud are standard operating procedure. Only what is written and initialed on every page means anything, and sometimes then not much.

It seems like a good old boys club, and Nifong just stepped "a little" across the line. It is hard to get them to go after "their own". What a dirty little guild. They are slow to police their own.

allegedly ...

Posted by: bill at August 31, 2007 01:55 PM (T82EU)

8

KC Johnson has done a (figurative) body cavity search of Nifong, and Durham, and Duke.


I don't normally like lawyers taking people to the cleaners, but it's worth it for the deterrent value.  Something needs to keep prosecutors in bounds.


Posted by: Ralph L at August 31, 2007 02:14 PM (0gB9X)

9 bill, the answer to your question is "yes." All states and the federal government have laws which govern the behavior of lawyers. Many states base these laws on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 3.4 governs situations where a lawyer is communicating with the opposing party.

It provides in part:

A lawyer shall not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party's access to
evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other
material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel
or assist another person to do any such act.


Posted by: Gabriel Malor at August 31, 2007 02:16 PM (1Ug6U)

10 Gabriel, I don't believe you actually answered Bill's question.  He asked if it is allowed for one lawyer to lie to his opposite number in a proceeding?  Or is your quote using the phrase "unlawfully obstruct" partially defined as to intentionally lie?

Posted by: cranky at August 31, 2007 02:29 PM (Xj2Ev)

11 One day in jail?  Bullshit.

Posted by: cranky at August 31, 2007 02:30 PM (Xj2Ev)

12 Is there any law forbidding lawyers from lying to those they are in dispute with?

Yes.  There are both perjury statutes and rules of conduct that penalize lying.  The Rules of Professional Conduct require candor to the tribunal and to opposing counsel.  Now, that doesn't mean you have to disclose everything but it does mean that you cannot outright lie.  Most states now have variants of FRCP 11 which states, roughly, that when a lawyer signs his/her name to a motion, pleading, etc. then the lawyer is vouching that the statements/denials are factually based.  If you're caught violating that, then you can be hit with monetary sanctions.  My firm just got a lovely little check that was into five figures from the other side because they got busted shredding documents they shouldn't have and point blank lying about it.  We got default judgment on liability as well.  In PA, verifications are made under penalty of the perjury statute.  So if a lawyer lies in that, then s/he is facing criminal sanctions.  Not to mention that if a judge finds out you lied in open court, you're screwed.  The best you can hope for is monetary penalties for contempt and not winding up in jail along with the judge granting default to the other side.

On top of that, the legal community runs on reputation.  Lie to someone once and no one will believe a word you say ever again.  There's counsel in my town that I wouldn't believe if they said it was day or night if we were standing outside.  That makes negotiations very difficult  There's absolutely nothing wrong with playing hard ball, a lawyer has a non-waivable duty to vigorously represent his client.  But that line stops at outright lying.

Which is not to say that the profession is diligent about policing its own.  Sadly, it's not.  But yes.  Lying is not standard operating procedure. 

Posted by: alexthechick at August 31, 2007 03:07 PM (Le6Pm)

13

a lawyer has a non-waivable duty to vigorously represent his client.  But that line stops at outright lying.


Thanks alex.  I understand the part of if they put their name to the document that then is an assertion on their part as to the facts.  If your opposition asks you a direct question you would have a duty to answer truthfully.  If you are in negotiations with your opposite number, not volunteering information on your part is a tactic where the interests of your client are paramount. 


Did I understand what you were saying?


Posted by: cranky at August 31, 2007 03:28 PM (Xj2Ev)

14 one day.

he ruins the reputation of students, of a coach, of a school administrator and a school. his 'omission' pushes racial tensions to the breaking point...

and he gets one day.

I'm glad he was disbarred but this is such bullshit in the face of what this 'omission' has cost innocent people.

Posted by: boogiebop at August 31, 2007 04:12 PM (g2xiS)

15 cranky - Yup, that's it exactly.  You can't tell an outright lie but you can spin in your favor.  Sure, there are those who do lie, there's bad actors in any profession.  But getting caught out is a very bad thing indeed.

Posted by: alexthechick at August 31, 2007 05:47 PM (Le6Pm)

16 When is the President of Duke going to be punished for his acts of dereliction of duties to his charges?

Posted by: john warren gotsch at August 31, 2007 11:38 PM (COc6u)

17 Maybe one day is enough for him to get Nifonged in jail.

Posted by: nikkolai at September 01, 2007 03:16 AM (B1NVJ)

18

"On top of that, the legal community runs on reputation.  Lie to someone once and no one will believe a word you say ever again."


I work at our local superior court and this holds very true in the courtroom.  Once the judge finds out you lied to him/her your word is doggie doo.  Prove it or shut up.


Heck, this holds true outside the courtroom, too.  Some lawyers have no qualms at all about lying to the judge's assistant to try to convince him/her to bend the rules in their favor (such as to get a case put on calendar).  Get caught once and you will forever after be jumping through every procedural hoop there is.


Posted by: Elisa at September 01, 2007 06:43 AM (hL/mm)

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