Recently, I was watching "Good Morning America" when they featured a video of a divorce attorney breaking into the home of his client's estranged husband. Unbeknownst to the divorce attorney, he was videotaped kicking the door down to get into the house. Then he entered the house with with his client -- the estranged wife -- and removed certain items which apparently the estranged husband refused to return to her. The attorney is shown giving his client a hug as they go through the process of removing the items.
The husband then drives up and the attorney leans over the car and says to the husband, "what are you going to do to me, are you going to do call 9-1-1?". Unbeknownst to the attorney, the entire house and exterior property were covered with surveillance cameras so that everything was caught on tape.
My question is, what was he thinking? What was he doing? He is now facing criminal charges. I think he should be punished.
An attorney has a duty to advocate for his/her client, but this situation is clearly beyond the bounds of advocacy. Clearly an attorney should not commit a criminal act such as breaking and entering and removing property for a client.
What was this guy thinking, or was he? I know that people get caught up in the heat of the emotions during a divorce. But a good attorney is going to calm things down, not heat things up. We have a court system. We have a family court with judges and referees who are there to assist people with issues such as this one. Attorneys should not break the law. I don't care what a client is asking of you, you don't break into someone's house!
What are the remedies? This attorney knew very well that he could file a motion with the court. He could bring the husband before the judge to compel the return of the property. You don't break into a house. We have laws, rules and procedures that any experienced attorney knows. If the attorney is faced with a position that he or she must break the law to satisfy a client, it's time for the attorney to withdraw.
In some situations, there maybe some ambiguity. In this case, there was none. There was no reason whatsoever for this attorney to break the law. He will suffer consequences and quite frankly he should. I am not excusing the estranged husband one bit, but what the attorney did on behalf of his client was over the top.
Another question I have is did this attorney become too closely involved with his client and lose any objectivity? What do you think?
If you have some thoughts on this issue, please share them with us.
By: HENRY S. GORNBEIN
Family Law Attorney & Legal Correspondent
40900 Woodward Avenue, Ste. 111
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5116
248/594-3444; Fax 248/594-3222