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Bullying in the Law: What You Can Do When Opposing Counsel Goes Too Far

Bullying in the Law: What You Can Do When Opposing Counsel Goes Too FarWhen we think of bullying, we shouldn’t just imagine a school with a group of students taunting someone in the hallway. Unfortunately, in the legal world, litigious bullying happens and often leaves plaintiffs feeling powerless and pressured. It’s a malicious form of trying to intervene in the outcome of a case.

If the opposing lawyer chooses to behave this way, there are consequences, but the victim should know how to defend themselves in the proper ways. Although it may be tough to overcome the intimidation that they’re placing on you, your experienced Charlotte family law attorney can help you through it all.

How do you handle this type of bully?

There are several tips for how to handle bullies used in the regular world that can also be used in the legal one. For instance, keep calm and do not react. Remember that the opposing attorney is trying to pinpoint your weaknesses and get you to break on any crucial details, or maybe even admit to something that you didn’t do. Especially when in the middle of a proceeding, it’s important to keep your cool. This allows you to use your best judgment instead of acting on emotion.

If the opposing attorney is going at you with all they have during a proceeding or even outside of court, you may feel yourself starting to shut everything and everyone out. Don’t just go silent. When you must deal with this type of bully, ensure that you are using assertive and effective communication. By doing so, you are strengthening your position and case in front of the jury and judge. Once you demonstrate that you will not be affected by the attorney’s tactics, they may begin to back off.

Talk to your attorney. Do not hide what is happening from them. Maybe you feel shame or powerlessness, but that’s only because the other attorney is putting that in your head. Remember that your attorney is there to help you. They are the best ones to advise you on how to proceed. Being quiet only encourages the opposing counsel’s behavior. Also, it’s important to put a stop to the bullying early on. Do not let the situation escalate to the point where there is no return. Start a paper trail from the moment they begin to harass you, set the tone for the rest of the proceeding, and have third parties as witnesses whenever possible.

What if I’m being harassed outside of an active case?

Sometimes, a case may be complete and there is no need to reopen or modify any part of it. The opposing attorney should not contact you if there is no active case. Nevertheless, they may still choose to contact you. If this contact is inappropriate, unprofessional, or lewd, do not just stand by as it occurs. Let your attorney know of this. This situation should be documented; if it is not recorded as harassment, then the contact between the opposing lawyer and you will be written off as acceptable.

Lawyers do not just get a slap on the wrist. They can be disciplined by the state’s licensing associations for acting in an ill-suited manner. If this harassment gets to the point where it causes damage to you, such as emotional distress and anxiety, you can file a civil tort action against them. Your attorney will be able to help you more with taking this step.

What actions will be taken against a bully lawyer?

While each state may have its own rules for lawyers that break conduct – North Carolina’s State Bar, for example, has three specific rules regarding bullying in its Rules of Professional Conduct – there are several general actions that an agency may decide to take:

  • Issue a reprimand via a letter to the lawyer
  • Issue a reprimand via publishing in the agency’s official reports
  • Issue an official censure
  • Suspend the lawyer for a specific range of time
  • Take the lawyer’s license away
  • Order the lawyer to pay money to the victim (restitution)

If the opposing lawyer has harassed you in any way, it’s important to know that you can file a complaint against them. The complaint can be anonymous if you prefer to maintain your name and situation private. After the complaint is received, an investigation begins. If there is evidence found of the lawyer’s inappropriate actions, the investigating agency will provide them with a copy of the complaint and with a chance to respond.

Abuse of process and malicious prosecution

If you feel that the opposing counsel is harassing you through the use of legal means, you can file a claim for abuse of process or malicious prosecution. “Abuse of process” refers to when the lawyer intentionally misuses a court process while utilizing the underlying civil action. In other words, if an opposing lawyer is using a deposition for a different motive than the one from the lawsuit just to harass you, you may be able to file this type of claim. The existence of an ulterior purpose in using the legal process to harass you must be proven. “Malicious prosecution” may be similar to abuse of process, but it typically involves a civil proceeding being brought against the person without having probable cause – meaning that the allegations are baseless and intended with malice.

North Carolina residents, if you’re being bullied by an opposing counsel, don’t stay silent. You should always fight back; your attorney will be right there by your side. At Epperson Law Group, PLLC, we have teams ready to fight with you in Charlotte, Boone, Concord, and Weddington. Our seasoned attorneys will assist you with any questions you may have throughout the process. With their knowledge, strength, and experience, they can help build a strong case for you. To set up a free, no-obligation consultation, you may call us today or fill out our contact form.