[Guest post by DRJ]
The New York Times addresses Sonia Sotomayor’s legal practice in the 1980’s:
“In her questionnaire, Judge Sotomayor says she was the “owner” of Sotomayor & Associates, which she described as a consulting business she operated on the side from 1983 to 1986. During this period, she also worked, first for the Manhattan district attorney’s office and then as a member of Pavia & Harcourt, a large firm in Manhattan.
As a single practitioner, she told the Senate, she had helped “family and friends in their real estate, business and estate planning decisions.” The only other thing she has said about the practice is that if her clients “required more substantial legal representation, I referred the matter to my firm, Pavia & Harcourt, or to others with appropriate expertise.”
Sotomayor isn’t sure how many people she helped and the DAs office has waffled on whether its attorneys were allowed to do legal work on the side. But it may surprise some that one of the biggest issues in this story is the name Sotomayor chose to practice law: Sotomayor & Associates. The fact she had no associates means the name was incorrect, and the White House has issued this response:
“White House officials disagreed that the use of the name was a misstep, and they offered a written analysis by Hal R. Lieberman, a former disciplinary committee chief counsel in New York.
“Neither bar opinions nor cases to date have held that it was misleading for a sole practitioner to use the name ‘and Associates’ in such private communications,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “In fact, in the early 1980s, no rule prohibited the use of ‘and Associates’ in these circumstances and the only authority regarding the use of ‘and Associates’ in an advertising context was advisory, not mandatory, and thus not readily enforceable.”
Apparently this story was first noticed by Eric Turkewitz, a NY attorney and blogger, and he followed up with a post that suggests why the White House response focused on advisory vs mandatory actions: Because there is a 1973 New York ethics advisory opinion that says it’s misleading for a lawyer to use “& Associates” in a business name unless s/he has 2 or more associates.
“Americans don’t expect saints on the bench. Humans are fallible. It’s OK to screw up once in awhile.
But don’t trot out lame excuses. Don’t try to lawyer your way out of this with being “advisory.” That is something that people won’t tolerate.”