These pictures sent to columnist Joe Nocera from a Halloween party last year show affluent people mocking homeless people with signs like this reading “3rd Party Squatter. I Lost My Home & Was Never Served!!” Under any circumstances in a devastating recession, such costumes would show callous and tasteless senses of humor. However, this was a party of lawyer with the law firm of Steven J. Baum, a “foreclosure mill” representing banks and mortgage servicers.
For attorneys or their staff to mock suffering people leaves a stain not just on that firm but on the bar. It is bad enough to see lawyers running these mill operations. However, to profiteer on such mills while mocking those put on the street is truly grotesque. It will be interesting to know what the firms clients — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — say about counsel who love to dress up as homeless, poor people.
The Amherst, N.Y. law firm is accused of not just mocking poor people but maintaining a “really cavalier attitude” on foreclosures and the interests of the displaced families and individuals. While first attacking the pictures and calling them a smear job, Steven J. Baum later apologized for “poor taste.”
The question is whether such offensive costumes represent bar violations. I think they are protected speech. However, that does not mean that we should not condemn such practices or raise the question of whether these companies should put such sensitive cases in the hands of such insensitive people.
Source: NY Times