Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility
In September 2005, we lodged a complaint against The Cochran Firm with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility. Jesse D. Joseph, the Disciplinary counsel assigned to the case, performed a cursory investigation and then hastily dismissed the Neal’s case against David McLaughlin, The Cochran Firm’s attorney the Board held accountable for answering the Neals’ allegations against that law firm. Mr. Joseph closed the investigation within weeks, without asking to review any proof of wrongdoing against The Cochran Firm that the Neals had to present. The case was re-opened in the Spring of 2006, after the Neals informed the Board (by e-mail to all members) that Larry’s family was seeking justice in another venue (namely, the lawsuit filed against The Cochran Firm in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia).
By letter dated October 19, 2006, Lance B. Bracy, Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the Board, ruled, however, to close our case without any sanctions against The Cochran Firm. In so doing, the Board found that the Cochran Firm did nothing wrong in:
- lying to its clients and concealing its conflict of interest from clients;
- performing no substantive work on the client’s case during the 10.5 months it was under contract as the family’s attorneys, despite letters to its clients that discovery was going forth; and
- falsifying documentation to the Board in its defense of the Neals’ allegations against that law firm. Somehow, e?mails which proved McLaughlin’s accounts to the Board were false were deleted from a folder in my Yahoo e-mail account within a couple of weeks of my letting the Board know that I had e?mail proof. How was McLaughlin to know that I had already forwarded those e-mails all over the country to law firms, friends, and family members as well as saved them on disc and given discs to various people to hold in the event that I ever needed them? (I rightly thought that a person or firm capable of being complicit in the possible euthanasia of a poor mentally ill man or the cover-up thereof was also capable of anything.) Therefore I had the proof of McLaughlin’s lies and submitted same to the Board. It was very disheartening when the Board dismissed our case against McLaughlin without ever commenting on the Neals’ material evidence regarding the unquestionably forged and fraudulent documents submitted to that body by McLaughlin.
It was obvious that the integrity of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility’s investigation regarding The Cochran Firm’s treachery toward its clients was seriously compromised.
Georgia’s Board of Professional Responsibility gave no response whatsoever to the Neals’ September 2005 report to that agency about The Cochran Firm’s misdeeds. We made an appeal for help to various State of Georgia and federal agencies and other persons, and in July 2007, the Georgia Bar finally sent the Neals forms to file a formal complaint against the firm which we knew as The Cochran Firm’s Atlanta, Georgia office (called Cochran Cherry Givens Smith & Sistrunk, P.C. in Georgia Superior Court). Because of the lack of fair review and disciplinary action against The Cochran Firm by the Tennessee Bar as well as the Georgia Bar’s long delay in responding to our request for assistance, this complaint form remains in my file cabinet. We feel the Georgia Bar (after a two-year delay) finally sent Larry’s family the forms to file a formal complaint only because it was compelled to do so by the State of Georgia’s Attorney’s office and not because of any real interest in justice.
Having our complaint against The Cochran Firm altogether ignored by the Georgia Bar (until recent intervention by the Georgia Attorney’s office) and Tennessee Bar’s farce of an investigation indicate that lawyers investigating other lawyers for reason of client complaints simply may not work well enough to protect the public. The attorneys under investigation are valued members of and pay dues to the given bar that conducts their investigations. Perhaps small law offices should worry about sanctions, fines, or losing their licenses to practice law if those attorneys have violated the Code of Professional Conduct, but The Cochran Firm obviously had no reason for concern.
To my knowledge, I have only worked for ethical law firms that are meticulous in conducting conflict checks before contracting with anyone and forthcoming with clients about the results thereof. I believe that most attorneys behave with honesty toward their clients and opposing parties, and are conscientious and diligent in conducting their clients’ cases. Even after our experience with The Cochran Firm, I remain confident that most attorneys are men and women of integrity who fight earnestly but honestly on their clients’ behalf. However, when people find themselves in a situation like we were in with The Cochran Firm, wherein our attorneys were deviously working against us, clients unquestionably need and deserve a fair hearing before an impartial body -- not some club to which everyone involved is a member except the client who has been maltreated. Perhaps it is time to consider using citizens boards to preside over such investigations. After all, our juries are selected from the general populace, so why not use a similar methodology in examining complaints against lawyers?
DeKalb County, Georgia Police Department
Failed to investigate or respond in any way to the Neals’ report of phone tampering and removal of Yahoo e-mails that related to Larry Neal’s death. (Police report filed 5/10/06, with Officer Perkins, no. 2426, case no. 06-064301, Center Precinct)
[...The Media Blackout]