I’ve often posted here about attorneys’ obligation to supervise paralegals, arguing that they owe that duty to the paralegals as well as the public. So, I’ve been intending to write about the story of a paralegal and lawyers involved in the case of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, but have not found the time and energy to do so. Fortunately, my procrastination has paid often as Celia E. Elwell, The Researching Paralegal,” has not only posted a link to Tom Feher’s good post about the story, but has added commentary that raises both the supervision issue and the need for ethical education of paralegals. She also gave her post a title that I could use here, making my job even easier. So here’s the basics of the the story from Feher’s post on Lexology.com, “Florida lawyers face disciplinary charges after representing ‘Bubba the Love Sponge Clem’”:
Reports at the time suggested that, on the evening after the media-focused defamation trial started, the defense firm’s paralegal spotted plaintiff’s counsel at a local bar near his home. She contacted lawyers at her firm, returned to the bar with a friend, and sat down next to opposing counsel. Over the next two hours, the paralegal is reported to have lied about where she worked, flirted with opposing counsel and ordered drinks, including buying defense counsel a vodka cocktail and shots of Southern Comfort. She also stayed in touch with the three lawyers from her firm, sending them more than 90 texts and emails over the course of the evening. Later, opposing counsel’s lawyer stated that it was clear that the paralegal was in an undercover role and was making sure “all the parties knew exactly what was transpiring virtually every minute.”
Shortly after she first reported what was going on at the bar, a call was made by one of the lawyers to an acquaintance in the police department and an officer was posted outside the bar to wait for the plaintiff’s lawyer’s departure. When he eventually left, the paralegal convinced him to drive her car several blocks from a parking garage to a new parking space. As he did, he was arrested for DUI. The next morning, defense counsel touted the arrest to the media. Bar charges (a disciplinary complaint, not the tab for cocktails) accused the three lawyers of being involved in what appeared to be using the paralegal to set up opposing counsel.
The attorneys’ ethical violations didn’t end there as you can discover with a full reading of Feher’s post via the link provided above. But out focus is on the paralegal. That’s where I’ll let Elwell take over with an excerpt from her commentary “This Is So Wrong On So Many Levels:”
There has been a long, ongoing discussion in our profession about whether paralegals should have a certain level of paralegal education or whether it is sufficient to have experience alone. This article makes a good argument that, one way or another, in-depth education in legal ethics is critical for paralegals and all support staff. This subject deserves, and needs, special attention.
Share on Facebook