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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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Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.