f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

September 17, 2003

When Is Donation Solicitation?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:29 am

Overlawyered.com raises important issues in its Sept. 15 posting on the connection between clergy-abuse survivor groups and plaintiffs’ lawyers who represent abuse victims.    According to the featured Forbes article plaintiffs’ attorneys are among the biggest contributors to some survivor groups, while other groups — e.g., Survivors First in Boston — refuse to take such contributions.  (Paid to Picket, by Daniel Lyons, 09.15.03; free regis. req’d) Forbes notes a strong difference of opinion between two prominent lawyers for clergy-abuse victims:

“The symbiotic alliance makes Mitchell Garabedian squeamish. The lawyer last year negotiated a $10 million settlement for 86 plaintiffs in Boston, but he won’t give money to advocate groups because he believes the practice violates legal ethics guidelines. “It’s sort of a solicitation,” he says.

“Hogwash, say [Stockton, CA’s] Anderson, Drivon and Morey. “It’s not a solicitation. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a case from SNAP [Survivors Network Abused by Priests],” Drivon says.”

This Editor agrees with Mr. Garabedian that such donations have at least the appearance of  impropriety.   A donation given with an understanding, or in anticipation, that clients will be referred to a firm looks an awful lot like solicitation.   And, donations given under pressure from a victims’ group — in order to prevent being blackballed or to assure consideration for referrals (or other forms of assistance and cooperation) — also put the law firm into unholy ethical territority.   The aura of impropriety that surrounds such donations should be a good enough reason for lawyers to beg off when asked to contribute to the survivor groups.  A little self-imposed discipline, stifling the urge to  contribute or to ask for such contributions, would go a long way towards instilling faith in the legal proceedings that surround the clergy-abuse scandals. 

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