The Lawyer's Lawyer

April Fool's for Lawyers

Q. To help me celebrate April Fool's Day, the local sheriff will have my law partner detained as he walks into court today. When he asks why, the sheriff will say he's being arrested for the prank he pulled on me last year. Pretty hilarious, huh?

A. Perhaps. But Bar Counsel may not share your sense of humor.

That's what one lawyer learned when he retaliated against fellow prosecutors who egged him on for his strange aversion to hard-boiled eggs. Gagging at the smell of eggs strategically placed within a box of his files, Deputy Attorney General Adam Gelof was greeted with laughter from coworkers who shared a workroom within a Delaware courthouse.

Not to be outdone, this lawyer enlisted the aid of the Court's chief security officer. Despite his reluctance to do so, the security chief ultimately agreed to help Gelof return the favor. Drawing his gun, Delbert Garrison pointed it at Gelof's rival prankster, and warned him to "keep the eggs away from the files."

Gelof's coworkers found it funny. The Court's administrative judge did not. Nor did the Delaware Supreme Court. Finding that Gelof acted intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly in goading Garrison to brandish his firearm, the Court believed that a seasoned prosecutor should have placed safety above the frivolity of a dangerous prank. It didn't help that this particular court experienced a real shooting only months before.

Rule 3.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits attorneys from engaging in "conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal." By misusing the Court's personnel to stage this prank, this disruption also amounted to "conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice" in violation of Rule 8.4(d). Because these violations placed his colleagues and others at risk for injury or even death, the Court suspended this lawyer from the practice of law for 30 days.

The punch line? Practical jokes can have practical consequences.

Citation: In re Gelof (2016).

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