Dirty Tactics of Dirty LawyersWritten by: Rob Print This Article
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If you’re involved in a court case and seem to be getting shafted with injustice repeatedly, here are some things to watch out for in opposing counsel. In high-conflict litigation, it appears to be more common for the plaintiff’s lawyer to be “ethically challenged”, although certainly not all are. (It is certainly possible for the defendant’s attorney to be unethical, also.) If you are represented by counsel, point out behaviors like those below to your attorney as you may be able to better recognize them with your one case (or few cases, for some unlucky folks) than an attorney who may be handling dozens of cases for dozens of clients at the same time.
If you are self-represented (Pro Se or Pro Per), you have to be particularly on the lookout for these behaviors and bring the judge’s attention to them if you are to have any chance of getting them to stop.
Examples of Dirty Tactics in Litigation
- Failing to serve papers on opposing parties before hearings
- Repeatedly mailing important court documents to the wrong addresses
- After mailing papers to a wrong address to avoid service, then lying in court claiming postal regulations changed to explain away misconduct
- Misusing ex-parte hearings for non-emergency situations to gain a tactical advantage
- Repeating client’s lies even though the attorney should know something is amiss (unless of course he or she does not know they are lies, in which case perhaps the attorney is more careless and/or stupid than unethical)
- Lying in court about information known first-hand to attorney
- Discriminating against Pro Per (self-represented) opponents by refusing to communicate via means typically used with other attorneys
- Refusing to discuss issues (“meet and confer”), even after documents were personally served on him or her
- Falsely portraying Pro Per litigant’s attempts to civilly resolve issues via letters, email, or conversations as “harassment”
- Misleading the judge about opponent’s level of cooperation, especially by using lies and exaggerations
- Refusing to discuss client’s court order violations to get them corrected without having to go back to court
- Writing inaccurate court orders, especially when biased to client’s position
- Spinning and distorting opposing side’s unwillingness to agree to inaccurate and biased court orders
- Acting as if he or she doesn’t know the rules, possibly to cover for his or her client’s misdeeds or himself or herself breaking the rules
- Stating that he or she has not seen documents that were personally served on the attorney plenty of time before a hearing
- Making a big deal out of something and then failing to include related exhibits in court filings even when they are mentioned in the text
- Can’t keep basic facts straight in verbal statements in Court, resulting in Court being misled and judge making poor decisions
- Lying to court clerks, claiming he or she was not properly noticed a hearing and then refusing to attend
Judges are often even more incapable than the litigants and attorneys of seeing these dirty tactics, so you must point them out or else they will continue to be used to your disadvantage. If you cannot get the attorney to stop these behaviors, push for sanctions against the attorney. Fines and reprimands from the court may motivate an unethical attorney to stop victimizing you.
Some attorneys have trouble dealing with other attorneys who are so unethical. In such a situation, you may be well-advised to change attorneys as you will be at a major disadvantage if an unethical attorney is given free reign to lie, distort, manipulate, and break the rules.