In re Herbert Cohen
204 D.C. App. Lexis 194 (2004)
Cohen was a partner in a law
firm, and had other attorneys reporting to him. The law firm was hired by
a non-profit (MRF) to help get a trademark registered.
During the process, the two
clients from the non-profit (Schleicher and Dobbie) got into an argument.
They split up and Cohen's law firm began representing both clients.
Schleicher told the la firm
to only deal with him and not talk to Dobbie.
Behind Schleicher's back,
one of Cohen's associates (his son actually) secretly filed an application
to withdraw the trademark application, so Dobbie could register the
trademark for his own benefit.
This favoring of one client to
the detriment of another client was likely a violation of:
Rule 1.3(b), intentionally prejudicing or damaging a
Rule 1.4(a), failure to keep a client informed.
Rule 1.7(b), conflict of interest between existing
Rule 1.16(d), failure to protect a client's interest.
Rule 3.3, making false statements to a tribunal, and
Rule 8.4, misconduct.
As an attorney in a supervisory
position, Cohen had a responsibility to keep an eye on what his
subordinate lawyers were doing. A failure to do so constitutes a
violation of Rule 5.2.
Rule 5.2(c)(2) says that supervisory lawyers must make
reasonable efforts to become aware of ethical violations by subordinates.
Schleicher, who felt he had
been treated unfairly, filed a complaint with the Petitioner Board of
The Petitioner Board
recommended that Cohen be found guilty of violating Rule 5.2, and suspended his license for 30 days. Cohen
The Petitioner Board found
that Cohen failed to become aware of and prevent violations of Rule
3.3(a) and Rule 8.4(c) by attorneys under his supervision.
The Petitioner Board also recommended
that the firm be found guilty if violating Rule 5.1(a), which says that a law firm must have
measures in place to assure compliance with the Rules of Professional
The Petitioner Board also
recommended that Cohen's son be found guilty of violating Rule 1.4(a), Rule 1.7(a), and Rule 1.16(d).
The Appellate Court accepted
The Appellate Court found
that a lawyer of reasonable prudence and competence would have made the
inquiry necessary to determine the status of the proceedings, should have
known of the withdrawal of the application, and should have been able to
take remedial action to avoid its consequences.