Attorney General Fights Unethical Home Improvement Contractors

There is a little known law in the New York General Business Law (Article 36-A) that requires most home improvement contractors to state in writing the services they will provide.  The law is based in ethics and overall good general business practices.  Unfortunately, a lot of contractors are either not aware of the law or they refuse to follow it.

As of a few weeks ago, Article 36-A is no longer a little known law.  New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he has cracked down on 47 Upstate New York contractors for their ethical, legal and business failings:

Article 36-A of the General Business Law requires that every home improvement contractor, before beginning work, provide the consumer with a written contract, signed by both parties, which sets out certain specific information and disclosures. 

“It happens all too often, homeowners hire contractors without having a signed contract stating what work will be done and how long it will take. And many times, they end up with a much larger bill than expected, or with a project that was never started or completed,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“Homeowners need to know their rights and home improvement contractors need to obey the law. My office will fight to protect consumers’ hard earned dollars and ensure that bad contractors are held accountable.”

The full press release from the AG’s Office is available here.  Article 36-A can be read in its entirety here

It kind of goes without saying, but when I hire a landscaper to trim trees along my driveway, a roofer to replace my roof, or an HVAC specialist to fix my AC unit this summer, I’ll be sure make sure get it in writing!

When You are Better Off Representing Yourself

The lawyer whose work the justices had considered was the least of it; he had merely been unresponsive and incompetent. Mr. Holland’s earlier lawyers had failed him in much more colorful ways.

Consider Kenneth Delegal, who was assigned to defend Mr. Holland at a 1996 retrial on charges that he had killed a Pompano Beach police officer in 1990. Mr. Delegal was removed from the case after being sent to a mental health facility. Later, the two men would see each other at the Broward County jail, where Mr. Delegal was held on drug and domestic violence charges.

The next lawyer, James Lewis, was a friend of Mr. Delegal’s and had shared office space with him. When Mr. Delegal went to court after his removal from Mr. Holland’s case, seeking to be paid about $40,000 for his work on it, the new lawyer testified on behalf of the old one, saying the fees had been “reasonable and necessary.”

Mr. Delegal died of a drug overdose about a month after the fee hearing, and a local paper asked his former colleague Mr. Lewis about his troubles. “I heard some rumors,” Mr. Lewis said, “but I chose not to know.”   [. . .]

However, upon waiving your right to court-appointed counsel, be careful not to represent yourself too effectively:

As proof that Mr. Holland was no longer mentally ill, Judge Greene praised him as an able advocate who had “correctly argued case law and factual issues to the court.” His legal skills, then, were proof that he was fit to be executed — but not good enough that he be allowed to defend himself.

From the New York Times.  More here.

It’s Too Bad that the Ethical Canons Don’t Apply to Law Schools

Something to think about as another 20 law schools are sued over troubles with employment placement data used in recruiting students.  How should the ABA respond to this debacle long-term?

In a not-unrelated article, NYU Law School has reportedly paid $3.6 million for a new faculty condo.

The Atlantic has this piece which sums up the impact of the student debt burden on young attorneys and the larger economy:

There are plenty of other reasons to worry, though. First, the growth of student debt is making it harder and harder to enter the middle class, or to stay there. When teenagers are forced to take out loans in order to pay for their education — the median graduate who takes out loans* leaves school $12,800 in debt — it acts as a tax on their future wages. It postpones their ability to settle down, buy a home, and have children. That’s tragic for them, and it’s tragic for us, because it means less money will flow into other, more productive parts of the economy.

In other words, think of student debt as an economic parasite — a tape worm, if you will. It won’t kill the economy quickly, but it will sap the life out of it over time.

Welcome to Think Ethically

Welcome to Think Ethically. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethical rules governing attorney marketing in New York. It’s written by attorneys trying to live by those rules (and with them) while trying to grow their practices and represent their clients. This blog will also explore the foundations of ethics in general, and will search for lessons in ethical failures in society at large.

Thanks for joining us.