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Cases of Interest: Attorneys and Clients
National Legal Research Group, Inc.

ARKANSAS: Callahan v. Clark, 21 Fam. L. Rep. (BNA) 1451 (Ark. July 17, 1995).
Mary Clark hired George Callahan as her attorney in her divorce. Clark told Callahan her goals were to obtain custody of her four children, to retain a role in operating the family business which was located in a shop adjacent to the marital home, and to obtain a steady income stream for her and her children's support.
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INDIANA: Landau v. Bailey, 629 N.E.2d 264 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994).
The trial court erred by granting summary judgment against the wife in her malpractice case because there remained a factual question of whether her divorce lawyer failed to present evidence in the dissolution proceeding of the good-will value of the husband's law practice.
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MINNESOTA: In re Marriage of Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519 (Minn. 1997).
A sexual relationship between an attorney and his divorce client during the course of the representation is not grounds for reopening the final decree.
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MINNESOTA: Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519 (Minn. 1997).
Many cases have held that an attorney's malpractice or similarly termed "ineffective assistance of counsel" in representing a divorce client is not grounds to set aside or reopen the divorce decree.
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MISSOURI: Beare v. Yarbrough, 941 S.W.2d 552 (Mo. Ct. App. 1997).
The wife's consent judgment in an equity action seeking recovery of omitted marital property did not bar her legal malpractice action against the attorney and the law firm that represented her in the dissolution proceeding.
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NEBRASKA: Wood v. McGrath,North, Mullin & Kratz, No. S-96-1243 (Neb. Sup. Ct. Feb. 12, 1999)
In Nebraska, the law is unsettled as to whether unvested stock options are marital property and thus divisible in an equitable distribution action. The unsettled nature of the law, however, did not shield an attorney for failing to advise his client regarding those stock options.
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NEW JERSEY: In re Principato, 11 ABA/BNA Law. Man. on Prof. Conduct 103 (N.J. Mar. 31, 1995).
Two new cases further support a court's authority to impose disciplinary action on an attorney who misbehaves in his own domestic relations case. In the first case, a prosecuting attorney had been dating a colleague from the office for several months when during a fateful evening he beat her up, causing her great injury.
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NEW YORK: Anonymous v. Anonymous, 15 ABA/BNA Laws. Man. on Prof. Conduct 63 (New York County, Sup. Ct. Jan. 27, 1999).
All divorce attorneys know that it is unethical to represent the wife in a divorce and then the husband in any postdivorce matters against the wife. Clearly, in such a situation, the attorney is in receipt of confidential information from the wife that the attorney cannot then use against her.
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NEW MEXICO: Carillo v. Coors, ___ N.M. ___, 901 P.2d 214 (Ct. App. 1995).
A divorce lawyer did not commit malpractice by failing to obtain a lien in a property settlement involving installment payments because divorce decrees ordering future periodic payments are not money judgments that can be protected under the general lien statute.
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OHIO: Krysa v. Sieber, 113 Ohio App. 3d 572, 681 N.E.2d 949 (1996) (published 1997).
The wife was entitled to relief from judgment on the ground of excusable neglect because her lawyer inadvertently made a mathematical error when calculating the value of the parties' marital property.
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OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee, Opinion 308 (Dec. 9, 1994).
Numerous new cases and ethics opinions have been issued concerning sex with clients in the divorce context. The Colorado Supreme Court adopted the rule that a sexual relationship with a client, especially in the dissolution of marriage, custody, or support context, will be a violation of ethical rules.
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PENNSYLVANIA: McMahon v. Shea, ___ Pa. ___, 688 A.2d 1179, 1182 (1997).
A recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appears to restrict the scope of its much-condemned decision in Muhammad v. Strassburger, McKenna, Messer, Shilobod & Gutnick, 526 Pa. 541, 587 A.2d 1346, cert. denied, 502 U.S. 867 (1991).
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SOUTH CAROLINA: Crowley v. Harvey & Battey, P.A., ___ S.C. ___, 488 S.E.2d 334 (Ct. App. 1997).
A divorce client's malpractice claim against her former lawyers, who allegedly negligently advised her in settling property division issues, was not barred by her conduct in accepting financial benefits under the settlement agreement or in suing to enforce it.
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TEXAS: Ortmann v. Ortmann, 999 S.W.2d 85 (Tex. App. 1999).
Allegedly fraudulent conduct by the attorney of the former husband does not constitute extrinsic fraud supporting relief by the bill of review.
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VERMONT: In re Gadbois, No. 2000-026 (Vt. Sept. 26, 2001).
An attorney appealed the Board's decision that he violated DR 4-101(B)(3), DR 5-105(A), and DR 1- 102(A)(7) by representing a husband in a divorce proceeding and then representing that client's second wife in the second divorce proceeding.
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