2020 ABA LPL Ed Mendrzycki Essay Contest—Hypothetical
Sponsored by: ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers' Professional Liability and Long & Levit, LLP
You are general counsel for Fingersen Every Pye, LLP (the "Firm"), a powerhouse full-service law firm in the State of Greenland, where the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct are in effect. One of the Firm's oldest and most loyal clients has been Greenland's public library system.
Recently, the media published a story reporting that the well-respected, now-retired head librarian of Greenland public library system, E. Gilliam Tee ("Gill Tee"), systematically engaged in sexual assault and quid pro quo sexual harassment aimed at subordinate employees. The bombshell story further reported that this misconduct had been common knowledge to the higher ups at the Greenland public library system who actively worked to cover it up, with the story specifically implicating the library system's current leadership.
Following the story, the State of Greenland has initiated criminal proceedings against Gill Tee. Gill Tee has engaged attorney Sawyer Shark, a partner with the Firm, to defend against the criminal charges. Shark did not approach the public library system about representing Gill Tee before accepting the engagement. Gill Tee has also proposed retaining the Firm to defend against civil claims which are anticipated but have not yet been filed.
In the criminal proceeding, Shark assigns the day-to-day handling of the matter to junior partner Max Billings and star associate Ainsley Amiable. Shark intends to have Billings take on a major role at trial, and Billings has become the Firm's point person for dealing with Gill Tee. Two weeks before the trial date, Amiable files a complaint with the Firm's HR department against Billings. In the complaint, Amiable accuses Billings of demanding sexual favors in exchange for an expanded role in the defense of the case, and the opportunity to participate in what is shaping up to be a high-profile trial. Amiable further asserts that Billings threatened to have Amiable relegated to a much smaller role if the demands for sexual favors were rejected and to instead offer a more expanded role to a newly admitted attorney.
When confronted with the allegations, Billings firmly denies Amiable's allegations and, in an effort to convey innocence, provides a statement under penalty of perjury disputing the charges. Shortly after Billings provides this statement, the Firm discovers an e-mail where Billings claims to have Shark's ear and threatens Amiable's career if Amiable does not "give me what I want."
The Firm's managing partner approaches you, and advises that Shark has denied any firsthand knowledge of Billings' conduct but that Shark confided that another attorney, no longer with the firm, had complained to Shark about similar conduct by Billings in the past. The Firm's managing partner grimly reports that Shark suspects the allegations are true but did not seem to care, with Shark remarking it was just "Billings being Billings."
The Firm's managing partner advises that the Firm plans to discharge Billings and perhaps Shark as well. (The Firm is consulting with outside counsel regarding any employment-related concerns.) The Firm is also contemplating issuing a statement in support of Amiable. First, the Firm desires a memorandum regarding the potential ethical issues that may be implicated from Shark and/or Billings' conduct. The Firm's managing partner requests that the memorandum address any professional responsibility issues the Firm should be aware of, including but not limited to issues related to:
- The Firm's representation of Gill Tee in light of its relationship with the Greenland library system;
- The Firm's intent to discharge Billings;
- The Firm's potential decision to discharge Shark;
- The Firm's intent to issue a statement in support of Amiable;
- The scope and content of any statement issued in support of Amiable.
Please prepare the memorandum.