The Legal Malpractice Playbook: Organized Crime Tool

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There's an organized crime strategy that I haven't heard discussed, but has become very evident in my encounters with attorneys over the past three years: lawyers/firms who take on clients only so that they can ruin or interfere with their cases and/or affairs. There must be an instruction pamphlet for this somewhere.

The dominant image of this type of behavior is some sort of Italian Mob interference rather than the specific targeting of environmentalists, feminists or non-Christians. Since those seem to be the characteristics about Mom and me that have sustained a well-funded overall life interference campaign, I imagine that others are targeted for similar political/social characteristics.

The forms of malpractice we have encountered are just too consistent for these tactics to be isolated to us. Attorney/client interference seems to be a favored means of depriving "undesirables" of their Constitutional rights. Here are some examples -- I'll do some more editing and adding later.

(I am not qualified to give legal advice -- the anecdotes here are my experience and I take no responsibility for what anyone does with the information. But I hope it's helpful!)

1. Bait and Switch (Fraud)

The unsuspecting client can be lured into hiring an attorney who promises to provide specific services or take the case in a certain direction. The problem is, most retainer or other attorney-client agreements don't allow for spelling out in detail why someone has agreed to hire a specific attorney or firm. To ensure that our interests are protected, we have started to add Addendums to contracts that stipulate what has been promised, and our understanding of what the firm has agreed to do.
2. Providing Constant Attention at First, and then Disappearing
This is a tactic employed along with Bait and Switch. Since finding an attorney takes so much time and energy, it's natural to feel a sense of relief when you do, and to be too busy or overwhelmed to find yet another one. It can take a while to realize that someone does not have your best interests at heart, and by the time you do, you might be up against an important deadline.

To provide an initial impression of competence and concern, attorneys may be hyper-available for the first few weeks of representation -- answering emails immediately and giving thorough answers to your concerns. Then, when an important filing is due, they may completely cut off contact or provide little information about your case. If issues central to your livelihood/existence are at stake, this is highly anxiety-producing. When they do appear again, you are grateful to get even cursory responses.

3. Taking Action Against Your Interests or Without Informed Consent
We should all be able to assume that whatever our attorneys ask us to sign or do will be in our best interest. After all, they were hired to help. But if you're a politically active or otherwise even mildly controversial person, it seems that it is necessary to take extra precaution.

Attorneys have to explain to you why they are doing what they are doing so that you understand the directions they take with your case. They can fail to do this by not telling you that they've changed their minds about taking a deposition, or simply not explaining the consequences of a filing. They may attempt to wrest your property from your control, and if you don't understand the ramifications of what they put in front of you, you're screwed. In the midst of efforts to use a law suit to get you declared incompetent or otherwise discredit you, they might provide advice that makes you more vulnerable to these machinations. In these instances, you can be placed in a vulnerable position when you are not fully informed of your rights and options, and an attorney takes action that is detrimental to you.

4. Avoiding Documentation
The actions described above are clearly malpractice, and attorneys don't want to lose their licenses. So when they give bad advice, or ignore your wishes, they like to do it in untraceable ways. We have witnessed attorneys give every excuse to get us on the phone or in a meeting so that their bad advice is not in any way documented.

Insist that advice is provided in writing/email. Provide written summaries of any phone calls or meetings with your interpretation of what occurred and what the next steps will be.

5. Escaping Documentation
Once you let it be known that you insist on documenting advice and decisions, the next strategy will be to make it difficult. Most of us rely primarily on the computer. Suddenly, however, email communication becomes impossible. Your troublesome emails are interrupting someone's Saturday football game (as though he can't turn of his blackberry and respond to your message when he is able). Your very clear responses to emails are suddenly apparently nonsensical. If tactic 2 is employed, your multiple emails seeking answers to essential questions are portrayed as unreasonable. A dictum that you may now only discuss and make decisions about the case via snail mail is put into effect (I'm not making this up).

All of this is to keep bad advice from being easy to document.

6. Administrative Stonewalling
You have an important deadline coming up, but suddenly all forms of communication are impossible. She's suddenly unavailable all day. He's on vacation. She's out of cell phone range. She's suddenly on vacation. She has to cancel a meeting at the last minute for personal reasons. He agrees to a meeting via telephone but forgets to tell his assistant, who insists that he is not available for a week. He will only meet in person at his office. Though you indicate the location of the meeting, the assistant deliberately and repeatedly continues to confirm another location. Once email communication is forbidden, since you need to have written documentation of advice, you have to wait days to get answers to important questions by mail. (When any of this frustrates you, you are just "impossible.")

7. Sowing Conflict and Blaming You
If an attorney takes on your case only to screw it up, and you're not letting that happen or are identifying malpractice, then he/she needs a pretext to get rid of you -- preferably at a really bad time. Any of the following will do to make you seem difficult. Deliberately misinterpreting communications to make them seem adversarial. Insulting you so that you will fire back an angry response. Portraying any reasoned attempt you make to provide clarification as incendiary. Their malpractice is obscured by their theatrics around how supposedly difficult you are.

So, the focus shifts from an attorney cutting off communication or not doing what is promised to a client harassing an attorney. Thus, when the attorneys are unable to manipulate us to their satisfaction through other techniques, they can simply claim that we are difficult/impossible. As this becomes quite surreal and overall appalling, all one can do is stick to facts, hope not to feed into whatever angry/difficult narrative they're promoting, and keep cool until your next option is clear.

8. Divide and Conquer

When two or more people are involved in a case, an effort will be made to prey on each individual's weakness, isolate the parties, and try to create conflict between them.

For instance, my mother's legal knowledge has saved her from being completely railroaded by a cadre of corrupt attorneys and public servants. My advocacy and strategy have also been essential. Mom can do legal research to counter attorneys' bogus claims, and knows how to file documents with the court, but isn't great at defending herself verbally. In situations where my assistance would be beneficial, every effort is made to isolate her and attempt to get her to do what she has done in the past -- be persuaded to trust attorneys who are ethically and legally obligated to protect her interests. When I am too good at ensuring that communication is documented and they aren't getting away with malpractice, they disparage me to her in an apparent attempt to divide us. A favorite tactic is to (often quite cruelly and always inappropriately) disparage one of us to the other via email, or exclude one party from essential email discussions. (Of course, this is also designed to provoke an angry response to the attorney per tactic 7.)

(BTW, depending on what serves them, at one time the judge or opposing counsel or corrupt attorney will claim that my mother "should have known better" when she was being sent down the river -- because of her legal degree. At another time, her having been taken advantage of is supposedly proof that she's incompetent. So -- the problem is that she's either too knowledgeable or needs a guardian -- it just shows how tactical it all is.)

Any client is going to have strengths and weaknesses. We should all have the right to attorneys whose intention is to give us sound advice rather than prey upon them.

9. When You Call Them on Their Malpractice, They Try to Frame you as Difficult

This is classic. They've avoided you for weeks, taken action without your informed consent, made a mistake in a filing -- any of these, all of these, or more. You have frantically attempted to get them to correct their mistake or omission. When they don't respond, you copy partners or other associates to remind the firm of its professional obligation to you. You do all you can to ensure that you have protected your interests, and as a result of these actions you are accused of being difficult or impossible. Your efforts to have them mitigate the damage they have done to your case are portrayed as unreasonable.

Your case has been mangled. Your lawyer's only response is that your efforts to get mistakes rectified have sealed you as impossible to represent. You have to find yet another attorney, pay him or her to get up to speed on the case, and hope that he/she won't put you through the same process all over again.

You can see how any of these tactics is stress-inducing. When many of them are applied together, they work as part of an overall strategy to disrupt someone's life. Having to spend so much time to get someone who should be serving your interests to do so is frustrating and time-consuming. One ridiculous, baseless, extortion-like law suit can be protracted for years when your attorneys aren't working for you. It's time that people can't spend writing, organizing, or pursuing the leisure activities that keep them happy. It's a great way to destabilize and interfere with political enemies.

~~

Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on August 18, 2009 11:04 AM.

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