Are Attorneys Above The Law

If you have ever been in the regrettable situation where you need the assistance of a good attorney, then you know how much of a blessing they can be. It is possible that your marriage is falling to pieces, and you have children that your visitation rights you need resolved; or maybe you have been injured in an accident, and need to make assistance making a claim against the party that is at fault. No matter what your need, the right attorney can help make the entire procedure much easier.

Nevertheless, regardless of all the good work many attorneys do, there are a large number of attorneys who operate on the other side of the fence. These are the ones who will rip their clients off, ignore and break the law themselves in order to enrich their own lives.

These same attorneys will use suspicious moral practices to get questionable results, all of which directly affects you.
“Quis Custodes Ipsos Custodiet”, by the poet Juvenal, which means “Who Shall Watch The Watchers Themselves”, is an old Latin saying that sums up this situation perfectly – It is extremely apt in these situations, for if we cannot trust our protectors to actually protect us, what can we do? Who punishes the attorneys when they break the law?

Terrifying Statistics

Even though you may believe that attorneys who break the law are in the minority, the number of incidents that have been brought to the public’s notice is on the rise. Some of the most recent examples of this are:

o In 2001, a total of ELEVEN attorneys in Tennessee were still practicing law, even though there was a list of charges against them which included bank fraud, perjury, and even one attorney who was to blame for his failure to deliver evidence, which caused an innocent man to be kept in prison for four years on a rape charge.

o This year in Warren, Ohio an attorney was charged with fraud, including deceiving an elderly woman out of over $80,000

o Also this year, two attorneys in Boise, Idaho, were convicted of shocking financial dealings relating to real estate purchases at University Place

Yet, in spite of these findings, and the guilty parties acknowledging their criminal behavior, they are still permitted to work and practice law. Why is this, and what can you do about it if it affects you?

The Censure Debacle

While a child is growing up, and if they do something wrong, we as parents would punish them – this is how we have all learned right from wrong. The same in goes in our adult life – we all know that if we break the law, we will get punished. Depending on what it is we have done wrong or accused of, the punishment can vary – from an official warning for something minor, to losing your driving license for a road traffic offense, to spending time in jail embezzlement or something even more serious. There are even times when someone has spent time incarcerated when actually innocent.

However, the same set of laws do not seem to apply to attorneys. When they do something unlawful, as a rule, it does not look as if it affects their job too much, because they are still permitted to practice law. Still yet, if they are punished in a more serious manner, you can bet your bottom dollar it will not be anywhere near as severe as how we would be dealt with for the same crime.

The rationale for this is something attorneys love to fall back on, and that something is censure, a convenient scheme of publicly scolding someone without really doing anything official. Sure, when you hear that an attorney has been “publicly censured”, it might look and sound good on paper, but in fact it is anything but. The only thing that happens is that a public official, or if someone of prominence does receive a warning, it is like being a slapped on the wrist, and told not to be naughty again. Not exactly inductive to making someone alter his or her ways. However, it is not just this that is at fault here.

The Old School Tie Network

When any kind of law is broken, if it goes to court then it is normally attorneys who will work to see that the correct type of penalty is laid down out by the judges. However, if it is an attorney who is on trial (although this in itself can be hard to achieve, thanks to the censure procedure), then you can just about ensure that an old friend or colleague from law school will take their case.

As if that is not bad enough, you will find that the attorney is probably a friend of the judge that is hearing the case, which does not provoke confidence that the case is going to be heard fairly or with impunity. It is this kind of “all for one, one for all” attitude that has seen public faith in attorneys lapse to an unprecedented low, which is a particular embarrassment for the good attorneys that do their job well and look out for the people that matter – their clients.

If you have been a victim of malpractice by an attorney, there are ways that you can bring them to justice, and not just leave them to go the normal route of censure and favors from friends getting them off the hook.

Taking The Law Into Your Hands

One avenue that you can take to see the offending attorney brought to justice is by way of the state governing boards that are supposed to be responsible for attorneys being able to operate in a particular state or county. Unfortunately, this can be a tremendously costly and is usually a very long-drawn out process, which is not always successful, because the attorney can appeal it and generally the accuser is unaware and unable to speak out against them again. While the appeal is going on, they are allowed to continue to practice law…ergo the attorney gets away with it.

Another way you might consider is to use another attorney, which may sound bizarre as you are bringing a case against another attorney. However, just like any job and vocation, there are some exceptional attorneys who would like nothing better than to successfully charge and prosecute someone who is blighting their business and good name in such a negative manner.

If you are unsure of where you should start, there is usually a lawyer referral service in your town or you can go online and do a search with Google, Yahoo or MSN where you will find lists of firms in your city that would be more than willing to take this type of case on.

Another option is to go to the local and national press. People hate to think of those intended to protect our rights as operating in an criminal manner, and they like it even less when it is an attorney who is using the law to further enrich their own way of life. For that reason, you should take all your facts and dates to the press, who would love to chase these lawbreaking attorneys down for you.

No matter what you decide to do, please do not just sit and hope that the attorney will be found out without your help – that is why there are so many bad ones on the loose in the first place.

Assigning Power of Attorney (PoA) With Confidence

Incapacity planning, ensuring that there’s a strategy in place if you ever become incapable of managing your affairs, is important.

We all know that. Yet, it’s uncomfortable to think about and therefore easy to put off doing.

A key part of incapacity planning is assigning power of attorney (a legal document giving someone else the right to act on your behalf), but it’s also the biggest hurdle. Giving extra thought to who you choose, and what powers they’ll be granted, can give you the peace of mind to complete your plan with confidence.

Choosing your lawyer

Choosing someone you trust to assign power of attorney is essential. Acting as your attorney involves significant duties and obligations. Your attorney’s overarching duty is to act with honesty, integrity and in good faith for your benefit if you become incapable.

The law lays out specific obligations for the person chosen to hold your power of attorney. Among other things, they will:

  • explain their powers and duties to the incapable person
  • encourage the incapable person, to the best of their abilities, to participate in decisions concerning their property
  • foster regular personal contact between the incapable person and supportive family members and friends, and
  • keep account of all transactions involving the grantor’s property.

The attorney or attorneys you choose to act on your behalf should know these rules, and be aware of other rules set out in the act as well.

For instance, they’re expected to ensure you have a will and, if so, know its provisions. The main reason for this is that your attorney must not sell or transfer property that’s subject to a specific gift in the will, unless necessary.

The act also contains explicit instructions regarding both required and optional expenditures. Examples of the latter include charitable gifts where an incapable person made similar expenditures when capable and so long as sufficient assets are available. Your attorney should also be familiar with rules covering how or when he or she can resign, what compensation they may be entitled to and the standard of care expected of them.

Safeguarding your estate

You can also build a second opinion directly into your power of attorney documents by appointing more than one person. If you name two or more people, they’ll need to act unanimously unless the document states otherwise.

A joint appointment provides a level of protection in that any appointed attorneys must agree on all actions, while a “joint and several” appointment grants flexibility, allowing any one attorney to conduct business independently.

Many people choose to appoint the same people or trust companies to be both their power of attorneys and their executors. Although you don’t need to do so, the same list of key traits – expertise, availability, accountability and trustworthiness – apply to both roles.

It’s also possible to limit the powers granted to your attorney. If you’d like your attorney to act only for a specified time period (maybe a vacation or hospital stay) or in respect of a specific transaction (the closing of a real estate deal), a limited or specific power of attorney is worth considering.

In the case of a general continuing power of attorney, many people want the document to be used only if and when they become incapable of managing their affairs themselves.

Although the document is effective when signed, it is possible to include provisions in the document itself that defers it to a future date or the occurrence of a specified condition (for example, the grantor has a stroke). These are sometimes referred to as “springing” powers of attorney.

Whichever way you prepare your power of attorney documents, careful consideration of who you choose as well as availing yourself of available safeguards will help ensure your confidence in your incapacity plan.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Making a quick decision: Many people name their PoAs without thinking about their choice’s financial capability, much less their ability to get along with other family members.
  2. Assuming family is always the best choice: It’s far more important to choose someone who truly has your client’s best interests at heart.
  3. Waiting too long: If there’s already a question of diminishing capacity, it’s likely too late to make a power of attorney ironclad.
  4. Not reviewing it: Changing life circumstances and new provincial legislation can make an old PoA invalid.

Plan for Incapacity

Your estate plan doesn’t end with an up-to-date will. It should also anticipate possible future incapacity, which usually means preparing powers of attorney for both property and personal care.

Power of attorney, a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf, has two main types: one for management of property, another for personal care.

Will and estate planners generally advise preparing both types of powers of attorney. While they are often prepared at the same time as your will, they can be created at any time.

Personal care

With a power of attorney for personal care, you can authorize someone to make decisions concerning your personal care in the event that you become incapable of making them yourself.

You can give power of attorney for personal care if you’re at least 16 years old, have “the ability to understand whether the proposed attorney has a genuine concern” for your welfare, and can appreciate that the attorney may need to make decisions.

Personal care includes decisions concerning health care, nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene and safety.

Property

A continuing power of attorney for property authorizes someone to do anything regarding your property that you could do if capable, except make a will.

The law says you’re capable of giving a power of attorney for property if you’re at least 18 years of age, know what kind of property you have, along with its rough value, and are aware of any obligations owed to your dependants.

The term “continuing” (sometimes called “enduring”) refers to a power of attorney that may be exercised during the grantor’s subsequent incapacity to manage property. Ensure the document stipulates that you want the power of attorney to be used only if you become incapable.

What you need to know

A continuing power of attorney for property is a powerful document. Unless otherwise stated in the document, it’s effective when signed, granting considerable power.

In fact, the act explicitly requires you to acknowledge this authority can be misused. And, as part of the capacity test for granting a continuing power of attorney, you must also acknowledge the property you own may decline in value if not properly managed.

A financial institution, land titles office or other third party presented with a continuing power of attorney for property with the restriction “effective only in the event of the grantor’s incapacity” will want evidence of the incapacity.

That evidence could be hard to get. One solution is to set out terms of use in a separate document and have all original copies of the power of attorney held by a trusted third party. You could, for example, direct that document be released only if:

  • You tell the attorney you want him or her to start acting;
  • You are legally declared incapable of managing your property;
  • One or more doctors advise that you’d benefit from assistance in managing your affairs; or
  • Certain family members advise the attorney should begin acting.

No direction could be costly

If you fail to prepare power of attorney documents, it may take an application to court before someone can be appointed to make decisions for you. That can leave you scrambling when you’re in no physical shape do so. Having a will doesn’t help because an executor is only authorized to act after you die.

On top of that, court processes can be both costly and time-consuming. Depending on the circumstances, the Public Guardian and Trustee may have to get involved.

You also lose the opportunity to appoint people or companies of your choosing and aren’t able to establish parameters regarding the actions of your substitute decision makers.

Bellevue DUI Attorneys

Bellevue DUI Attorneys Specialize in DUI Defense

Working with Bellevue DUI attorneys is something you should do if you are arrested for DUI and want to win your case so you don’t end up with a criminal record. Bellevue DUI attorneys can help you to minimize the penalties imposed if convicted or even help you to successfully defend yourself against the charges. Imagine losing your license and not being able to travel to work each day or being incarcerated and not being able to spend time with your family. If you have Bellevue DUI attorneys on your team, you can minimize the chances of this happening to you. Don’t think of hiring an attorney as an expense; think of it as an investment in your freedom and your ability to drive and do all of the other things you normally do. If you think of it this way, the expense of hiring a specialized DUI lawyer is minimal compared to the value of all the benefits Bellevue DUI attorneys provide.

Consulting with Bellevue DUI Attorneys

Your first consultation with your new attorney will be one of your most important meetings. This is where you will sign your agreement outlining payment terms and other conditions of representation and officially hire the attorney to represent you as you face DUI charges. You’ll be asked you explain your case to your attorney and let him or her know about any special circumstances that may exist. Once they have all the information they need, your Bellevue DUI attorneys can get started on preparing for your case. Your attorney may find expert witnesses to testify during your trial or look up case law that can affect how your case is handled. Depending on the type of case being presented against you in court, your attorney may also choose to have your chemical test sample retested at an independent lab so that they can confirm or refute the results achieved by the police lab. All of this work will help when your criminal trial comes around and it’s time to present your defense in court.

Administrative Hearings with Bellevue DUI Attorneys

Working with Bellevue DUI attorneys can also be important in keeping your driving privileges from being taken away. Because driving under the influence is punishable with an administrative penalty of license suspension, your life can be made much more difficult if you are arrested for DUI. Imagine not being able to drive to work or go to the doctor for a much-needed medical important. This can really happen if you don’t Bellevue DUI attorneys to help you with any DMV hearings that are scheduled. If your attorney represents you, you may be able to get a restricted license that you can use to at least get to work and other necessary appointments. This will cut down on the hassles you experience in trying to find a friend to give you a ride or having to use buses or trains to get everywhere.

Criminal Sentencing and Bellevue DUI Attorneys

Bellevue DUI attorneys can also be a great help when it comes time for sentencing. Because you may be convicted of DUI if your case is not strong enough or if you just don’t get a good verdict in court, having Bellevue DUI attorneys to work with is very important for getting your life back on track after DUI charges. Working with one of these attorneys can help make the difference between spending time in jail and being able to be on probation and still have a chance at employment and a good family life.

Benefits of Bellevue DUI Attorneys

There are many benefits of working with Bellevue DUI attorneys to prepare for and present your case in court. The first is that they are specialized attorneys who focus solely on DUI defense as their careers. You won’t be working with someone who has a medical malpractice case one day and a murder trial the next. Your specialized attorney will have access to witnesses and information that can help you win your case. In terms of preparing for your case, your attorney will know the right questions to ask and how to prepare your defense so it has the best chance of getting a good result. Working with Bellevue DUI attorneys has many benefits and greatly outweighs any costs associated with hiring an attorney to defend you against DUI charges. If you’re facing a DUI charge, contact your local Bellevue DUI attorneys before it’s too late.