Uncivil Action: Florida Lawyers Sanctioned for Email Exchanges

I just saw this story on ABA Journal as a cautionary warning to those lawyers who allow their emotions to get ahead of their judgment. Two Florida lawyers — Nicholas Mooney and Kurt Mitchell — have been sanctioned for an exchange of emails that included such notable comments as one calling the other a “scum sucking loser.” The state supreme court was not amused.

Mooney represents Volkswagen of America and is currently with Bromagen & Rathet. Kurt Mitchell of Palmetto is an accident lawyer. Mooney received a public reprimand and an order to take classes on professionalism. Mitchell received the harsher punishment of a suspension for 10 days and must complete an anger management class.

The emails started in May 2008 when the two men could not agree on the schedule for a hearing. Mooney, 50, referred to Mitchell as “Junior.” Later the men would add nicknames such as “Sparky” (for Mitchell) and “Corky” (for Mooney).

It started in May 2008. Mitchell was representing a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Volkswagen of America. Mooney was the attorney for the car company.

The two men couldn’t agree on the date of a hearing. The first volley came from the 50-year-old Mooney, who addressed his colleague as “Junior.”

references to being a jerk and an old hack. Then it got good. Mooney wrote Mitchell that he had a more prestigious practice that the type of stuff “handled by bottom feeding/scum sucking/loser lawyers like yourself.” Mitchell moves the discussion to a discussion of Mooney’s presumed disabilities that a manifested by “closely spaced eyes, dull blank stare, bulbous head, lying.” Mooney moves the discussion to the illegitimacy of Mitchell’s children, suggesting that he “check your children (if they are even yours. … Better check the garbage man that comes by your trailer to make sure they don’t look like him).”

Even for the most rough-and-tumble litigator, the last comment from Mitchell truly crosses the line. After Mitchell learned that Mooney had a disabled child, he writes “[w]hile I am sorry to hear about your disabled child, that sort of thing is to be expected when a retard reproduces … Do not hate me, hate your genetics. However, I would look at the bright side, at least you definitely know the kid is yours.”

The court ultimately dismissed Mitchell’s complaint against the car company with prejudice.

What I cannot find is how these exchanges made it to the ethics board.

After reviewing the decision, my legal analysis leads me to caution our attorneys on the blog from the following retorts in future emails:

Yo mama so dumb she stared at da orange juice bottle cause it said concentrate

Yo mama so dumb she sold her car for gas money

If I throw a stick, will you leave?

This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.

May the Fleas of a Thousand Camels infest one of your Erogenous Zones.

Be instead guided by Alexander Pope:

And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

Source: St. Petersburg Times

Jonathan Turley

15 thoughts on “Uncivil Action: Florida Lawyers Sanctioned for Email Exchanges”

  1. With the latest from the Commander’s “raunchy” videos and many other unexposed unprofessional behaviors from our “professionals” it appears as though we have forgotten that we need to have mockup of someone who deserves respect before we can expect it.

  2. what’s america coming to when you can’t call a lawyer a scum sucking loser.

  3. The beauty of self-expression, telling of one’s sense of inner self, delusional projection while barring self-protection?

    How can I protest the harm of a false belief if I do not affirm the value of the true believer?

  4. Some interesting slurs in those emails. Following on Buddha’s comment, I wonder if their billing statements included the time for these “professional” emails?

  5. Oh boy … I hate to say it but those Fla. boys have nothing on our guys when they get going.

    Were the Prof a greedy man he could institute a blog fining procedure and then write a thread on the Constitutional validity of any number of Supreme Court decisions.

    He could probably earn enough from three threads to retire a wealthy man.

  6. Even though it was outside the court, the inability to creatively insult displayed here is simply inexcusable. If you can’t use the paint, don’t pick up the brushes!

    And the rest of what mespo said too. If these two clowns want to just have at it, their “professional” correspondence wasn’t the proper forum. Take the insults to a bar and any resultant fight out to the parking lot, but work for the clients when you’re on the clock – not escalate your personal pissing matches. I hope both clients sue to recover the billing (for which their surely was) for the wasted time.

  7. Although Mitchell’s last comment was exceptionally and inexcusably rude, these are e-mail correspondences and the exchanges did not occur within the ‘sanctity’ of a courtroom; therefore, the sanctions applied are unwarranted.

    Is not it better for opposing counsels to vent anger outside court to deflect possible occurrences therein? They were not standing on a public corner hurling insults.

  8. In the words of Walter Kerr, it seems both lawyers “had delusions of adequacy.” This stuff is always counterproductive and indicative of both mean-spiritedness and an inability to creatively insult. It harms no one and offends everyone. If personal advocacy is your goal, I’d reject this mode of practice. As for the line about the disabled child, it is beneath contempt and grounds for a one-on-one “hearing” outside of the civility of the courhouse.

  9. Winston Churchill:
    “Mr. Attlee is a very modest man. Indeed he has a lot to be modest about.”

    Mark Twain:
    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

    Robert A. Heinlein:
    “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”

    Or finally, if the the gloves need to come off, we can ponder the comment of Martin Luther regarding Henry VIII:
    “… a pig, an ass, a dunghill, the spawn of an adder, a basilisk, a lying buffoon, a mad fool with a frothy mouth.”

    What makes that observation even more impressive is that Martin Luther was a man of the Cloth!

  10. eniobob,

    I have a problem getting my fingers to keep up with my brain on a good day. 😉

  11. It happens,you get caught up in a matter of opinion conversation,and the person of the other end hits your “hot button”,and you can’t type fast enough,for your mind is running 100 mps,and you fingers can’t keep up.

    I think BIL can attest to this.LOL!!

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