Attorney Deceit Statutes: Promoting Professionalism Through Criminal Prosecutions and Treble Damages
70 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2010 Last revised: 11 Jul 2013
Date Written: February 25, 2010
Unbeknownst to many lawyers, numerous jurisdictions - including New York and California - have statutes on the books that single out lawyers who engage in deceit or collusion. In nearly all of these jurisdictions, a lawyer found to have engaged in deceit or collusion faces criminal penalties and/or civil liability in the form of treble damages. Until recently, these attorney deceit statutes have languished in obscurity and, through a series of restrictive readings of the statutory language, have been rendered somewhat irrelevant. However, in 2009, the New York Court of Appeals breathed new life into New York’s attorney deceit statute through its decision in Amalfitano v. Rosenberg. This Article discusses the extent to which, in this age of widespread distrust of the legal profession, this type of external regulation of the legal profession is a desirable approach. The Article concludes that although the utility of existing attorney deceit statues is undermined by the broadness of the language, the symbolism of the statutes is important. By relying on the development of tort law to address the same subject matter, courts can achieve the same educational and symbolic goals while dealing with attorney deceit on a more practical basis.
Keywords: Deceit, Ethics, Professional Responsibility, Torts
JEL Classification: K13, K30, K40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation