ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - The Georgia Supreme Court has disbarred two attorneys found to have used "runners," non-lawyer third-parties who referred clients to their practice.
The ethics cases of Thomas Sinowski and Steven Freedman began in 2002 and involved admitted payments to 46 runners for a total of $276,025. Their law practice, based in Atlanta, dealt with malpractice and negligence claims.
The court's 4-2 ruling, released Wednesday, said two chiropractors approached them and agreed to send them clients in exchange for payment.
This came after a 1996 ruling in Falanga v. State Bar of Georgia, wherein U.S. District Judge Ernest Tidwell, who passed away in August, allowed two attorneys to ask doctors and chiropractors to recommend them to potential plaintiffs. His decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in 1998.
Freedman testified that they stopped taking cases from runners the day the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the 11th Circuit's decision. A long-time employee testified that they stopped taking four days later when federal agents search their office and seized the runner book.
Sinowski and Freedman argued a one-year suspension was too harsh, but the court did not agree.
"Although Respondents were not disciplined previously, their conduct was egregious - they cast a wide net covering more than 1,300 cases," the opinion says. "Their scheme was highly organized and very lucrative, and it was not short lived.
"They were motivated by greed and they are not remorseful."
Chief Justice Carol Hunstein authored the opinion.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.