The greedy relatives of Buoso Donati examine his will in the Royal Opera House production of Gianni Schicchi.

I was disappointed to read in The Gainesville Times today a hack story about a bar complaint filed against Hall County Probate Court candidate Book Davidson by some disinherited relatives of a will Brook drafted.  The nature of the complaint is as old as the hills: momma has a will giving her estate to all three children.  22 years later, momma changes her will to disinherit two of the children and give all of her estate to the child that has been taking care of her in her old age.  She dies, and the other two children file a lawsuit to get at the money, and they file a bar complaint against the lawyer who got in their way, to get her off the case because she knows what momma really wanted to do.  (This is one of the reasons that I don’t do wills.)

This complaint, and this story, are simply without merit.  First, nobody like lawyers in general–not even me, so how better to tarnish a candidate’s  reputation than by publishing useless information.  Second, every yahoo and crazy person on Earth has filed, or will file, a bar complaint against a lawyer at some point.  Almost every person who loses a case files a complaint.  Almost every disinherited and greedy relative files a complaint.  The filing of a complaint means absolutely nothing.  Most don’t go to the paper, and none make it to a story except in this case.  Complaints are not public record unless they take action.  Third, I find it hard to believe that there could EVER be a conflict in a case like this.  This will take some explaining.

Rule 1.9 says: “A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.”  Unfortunately for the idiot complainers, you have to read the whole thing, and not just the parts that you want.  I admit it is dense reading, however.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, read the whole quote again.  I’ll wait for a second for you.

Let me help with some highlighting:  A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.

There is a conflict ONLY IF the prior representation is in the same or substantially the same matter.  Here, it is impossible to violate this rule here because Brook only drafted a single will for the mother giving the entire estate to the sister.  Whatever she did for the sister in the past could not have been the same matter because the “matter” was drafting the will for the mother.  In addition, it could not have been a “substantially related matter” because the prior will was written 22 years earlier.  Failure #1.

But wait, there is more!  I have no idea what Brook allegedly did for the sister, but simply doing some legal work that benefits a person does not make that person a “client” under the law.  For example, the lawyer that did your last real estate closing was probably the bank’s lawyers, not yours, even though you paid them for the work and you really, really thought they were your lawyer.  So here, the sister might not have been a client at all much less a former client!  Failure #2.

Next, the representation has to be materially adverse to the SISTER!  Not adverse to the disinherited relatives.  There is no evidence of that here.  In fact, the mother gave her whole estate to the sister, so how could getting everything from an estate be “adverse?”  Here the mother and the sister appear to be on the same side of the dispute.  Failure #3.

Next, it is the “former client” that has to waive any conflict.  The “former client” here would be the sister, not the mother.  So even if the sister was a former client, and even if it was the same matter, and even if was materially adverse, then all Brook has to do is get the SISTER to waive the conflict.  And since she is not the one filing the complaint, then the other people can’t complain on behalf of their adversary.  Failure #4.

Therefore as a matter of deductive logic, Brook could not have violated this rule.  It is a harassment complaint only.  That makes the story a hack job a week before the runoff election.

This complaint, and story, highlights part of what is wrong with Americans today.  People are reluctant to take personal responsibility for their actions and to be held accountable for those actions.  Then they try to rewrite history to wipe out their misdeeds.  Then they misuse the judicial and administrative systems to help them or to punish their adversaries.

When you vote on August 21, 2012, give this complaint and story the consideration is deserves–none at all.  In fact, you should call or write The Times and complain on your way to vote.  Here is the latest video of the candidates.

[I did call Brook to ask her for comment and she referred me to her attorney due to pending litigation.  However she did tell me that she is confident that she will prevail against the baseless attack and that she is confident that both she, the the will she drafted, will be upheld.  I did not contact Ashley Fielding from The Gainesville Times or the other relative in writing this post.]