Twas the night before Christmas, in the Matrimonial Part…
A lawyer has recently gotten in some hot water for writing correspondence to opposing counsel, in the form of a Christmas poem.
In an e-mail to another lawyer, in a seemingly never ending divorce case, Mr. A. Todd Merolla of Atlanta, Georgia, wrote a 15 stanza poem parodying “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.
By way of example, two of the stanzas read:
The Honorable One now passed, who will take the torch?
To rule on pending motions, some two years on the porch.
Justice delayed is Justice denied,
Will Article 78 inspire someone’s pride?
Win, lose, or draw, it’s not for a judge to care,
Simply rule and move on, why is that such a dare?
This 2003 case be a 59 month marriage, 9 year divorce,
$1.5 MM “temporary” maintenance to date, can Plaintiff get more? Why, of course!
Talk about good tidings for Christmas. But Merolla’s adversary, Kenneth Weinstein (who may or may not have had a heart that was two sizes too small), just wasn’t in the mood for a holiday-themed ribbing. Weinstein found the poem to be “outrageously offensive, utterly unprofessional [and] threatening.”
What is appropriate correspondence for legal counsel in British Columbia?
The Professional Conduct Handbook sets out a lawyer’s responsibility to other lawyers including (but not limited to) the following provisions:
- A lawyer’s conduct toward other lawyers should be characterized by courtesy and good faith. Any ill feeling that may exist between clients or lawyers, particularly during litigation, should never be allowed to influence lawyers in their conduct and demeanour toward each other or the parties. Personal remarks or references between lawyers should be scrupulously avoided, as should quarrels between lawyers which cause delay and promote unseemly wrangling;
- A lawyer must respond promptly to correspondence from other lawyers;
- A lawyer should avoid all sharp practice and should take no paltry advantage when an opponent has made a slip or overlooked some technical matter. A lawyer should accede to reasonable requests which do not prejudice the rights of the client or the interests of justice;
In short, lawyers in British Columbia should not be sending, what I call “snot-o-grams”, to other lawyers, no matter how creatively drafted the correspondence is.
Instructing your lawyer to write a discourteous letter to your spouse/former spouse’s lawyer is asking them to act against their obligations set out in the Professional Conduct Handbook – and should be avoided.