Posts Tagged ‘errors’

Cross-Border Incompetence

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Yesterday I suggested that we should continue to monitor the system for licensing paralegals adopted in Canada making specific reference to the definitions of character cited by the Law Society in a panel decision regarding Nicolino Alessandro. Alessandro’s case illustrates that lack of character and incompetence know no boundaries. The focus on the case is Alessandro’s alleged history of conduct showing lack of character, including “convictions for forgery, uttering forged documents and obstruction of justice.” However, it appears that a good case could be made that Alessandro, even if he had good character, simply isn’t competent enough to be a paralegal. Here are some of the problems with filings he made on his own behalf in the Law Society proceeding:

The reference letters:

1.         did not include one from a lawyer, or a person in authority in the court or tribunal systems, although they did include one from a disbarred lawyer who purported to be a lawyer in good standing at Exhibit 1, Tab 4;

 2.         none of the letters speak of convictions, but only charges;

 3.         the typeset was the same in two of the reference letters, at Tabs 10 and 14, and there were typographical errors in the names of the individuals in the “letterhead”; [Emphasis Added]

 4.         the handwriting on the applications, particularly at p. 2 and 3 of the Statement of Reference Form, is suspiciously similar in the reference statements at Exhibit 1, Tabs 2, 3 and 4, and the facsimile cover sheet from the applicant, at Exhibit 1, Tab 4, p.4;

 5.         the reference letter at Exhibit 1, Tab 9 from Evelina Di Rienzo purports to be from a Montessori teacher and does not disclose that Ms. Di Rienzo is the applicant’s wife.

On the basis of #3 alone, Alessandro would certainly find himself suffering Consequences of Sloppiness, so this post goes into that category. Apparently Alessandro needs a professional paralegal to assist him his application. However, if the panel’s statement is accurate, no professional paralegal would assist him because he is attempting to mislead the panel!

Not surprisingly, the panel denied Alessandro’s application for a license. A bit more surprising is that an appeal panel recently issued this decision:

By Decision and Order dated November 24, 2009, the Appeal Panel ordered as follows:

  1. The Appeal is allowed.
  2. The Order of the Hearing Panel dated April 30, 2009 is set aside.
  3. A new hearing before a different Hearing Panel is hereby ordered. The matter is to be expedited.

No reason is given for the decision, but based on my reading of the history of this proceeding I suspect the appeal was granted based on procedural grounds. It is quite likely the decision of the next panel will be the same, but I’ll be checking back to see the results.

Incomprehensibly Unprofessional

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

ABAJournal.com has a post entitled “Judge Labels Lawyer’s Motion Nearly Incomprehensible, Marks Up Errors” about

A federal judge irked at grammatical and typographical errors in a motion for dismissal has blasted the Florida lawyer who filed it and ordered him to copy his client on the criticism.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell denied the motion to dismiss without prejudice, saying that it was “riddled with unprofessional grammatical and typographical errors that nearly render the entire motion incomprehensible.” … Above the Law has the story.

….

The judge’s marked-up version of Glasser’s motion pointed out these problems:

–Several examples of excess spacing.

–Incorrect use of apostrophes.

–Typographical errors (using the word “this” instead of “thus” and the word “full” instead of “for”).

–Incorrect placement of periods and commas outside of quotation marks.

–Incorrect capitalization.

–Wrong word use (using the phrase the plaintiff “had attended on filing” this action, instead of saying the plaintiff had “intended” to file an action).

–One very long sentence.

As an educator I “harp” on these points incessantly attempting to make my students understand how important the “small things” are in a law office. We all make mistakes, especially in informal setting such a blog, and many, taken individually, go unnoticed or are quickly forgiven and forgotten. But enough of those small errors over time (in some cases a very small time), can be quite damaging even when they do not result in actions such as that described above. Judges and juries can perceive consistent sloppiness as reflecting a poor case, one in which you have so little confidence that you do not care enough to proofread your work. Small mistakes in wording can make a sentence or paragraph meaningless. Judges do not have the time to try to figure out what you meant, so the opportunity to make your point is lost. And sometimes people will conclude that if they cannot trust you on the easy stuff, they would be foolish to trust your legal analysis and interpretation, case citations, etc.

Use spell check and grammar check. There is no excuse for simple misspelling of words in pleadings, letters to clients and the like. However, do not let spell check replace careful proofreading. “Trail” is spelt correctly, but that is unimportant if the correct word is “trial.” The same is true of “council” when the word you meant to use was “counsel.” (Both of these occur frequently.)

Remember, to a large degree professionalism is in the details.