It’s a sad day for dog lawyers.
The American Bar Association voted in November to allow their profession to be called into question by the Justice Department.
It took place in the face of widespread protests and a lawsuit brought by the owners of the American Bar Institute (ABA) and its member institutions.
ABA President Carol Burchfield said the decision “puts the American public at risk” and “has serious consequences for our profession.”
“We are in the process of reviewing whether our membership has engaged in conduct that is deceptive and misleading,” she said.
A lawyer who was once a part of the ABA has been forced to defend his professional reputation after a new investigation into the matter was announced in December.
“My client was in a position of trust with ABA,” the lawyer, who requested anonymity, told Newsweek in a phone interview.
“He had the highest ethical standards.”
He said that when he began representing the dog owner, the attorney had a “positive experience with him and with the law.”
“He never made any false statements and never misled the court,” he said.
The lawyer said that in April, his client was contacted by the DOJ and told that he had been charged with “false representation” and that the attorney would be “in trouble.”
The lawyer, the lawyer says, did nothing to stop the charges and continued representing the owner after the case was dismissed.
A month later, he was again contacted by an attorney representing the client and told to “do something,” he says.
“The lawyer asked if he was a lawyer or a law firm,” the attorney told Newsweek.
“I told him no, but he asked if I was a dog person.”
The attorney told the lawyer that the AHA has a “very stringent process” when it comes to representing the public and that he “must do something,” and then, the ACHA informed the lawyer to “take your business elsewhere.”
The ACHA “said they wanted me to sign a document, so I did,” the dog lawyer told Newsweek, but said he was “not sure” whether the lawyer had signed the document.
The ABA declined to comment on the case.
The lawsuit filed by the AABI and its members alleges that in the late 1990s, ABA’s ethics and public-policy committees and other members engaged in “unlawful conduct” that caused the organization to “be exposed to fraud, defamatory and misleading representations and actions” and to “face a risk of criminal prosecution for false representation.”
In addition to the criminal charges against the lawyers, the lawsuit also alleges that ABA, the ADA, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Association of Medical Colleges “have engaged in deceptive and unethical conduct, including, without limitation, their failure to investigate allegations of fraud or deceit and their refusal to cooperate with the DOJ’s investigation.”
In a statement, the lawyers told Newsweek that “the American Bar has always been committed to a culture of ethics and honesty and is committed to protecting the integrity of its members and its organizations from such misconduct.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a campaign, The American Lawyers for Dog Rights, to “stop the spread of the fraudulent, dishonest and dangerous dog-lawyer business.”