On November 5, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit publicly reprimanded patent lawyer Edward Reines for a violation of Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(e). The court instituted the attorney discipline matter and considered it en banc. The genesis of the investigation was the following email sent to Attorney Reines by then Chief Judge Rade, who resigned from the bench following the release of the email.
On Wednesday, as you know, the judges meet for a strictly social lunch. We usually discuss politics and pay raises. Today, in the midst of the general banter, one of my female colleagues interrupted and addressed herself to me. She said that she was vastly impressed with the advocacy of “my friend, Ed.” She said that you had handled two very complex cases, back to back. In one case, you were opposed by Seth Waxman. She said Seth had a whole battery of assistants passing him notes and keeping him on track. You were alone and IMPRESSIVE in every way. In both cases, you knew the record cold and handled every question with confidence and grace. She said that she was really impressed with your performance. Two of my other colleagues immediately echoed her enthusiasm over your performance.
I, of course, pointed out that I had taught you everything you know in our recent class at Berkeley together . . . NOT! I added the little enhancement that you can do the same thing with almost any topic of policy: mastering the facts and law without the slightest hesitation or pause!
In sum, I was really proud to be your friend today! You bring great credit on yourself and all associated with you!
And actually I not only do not mind, but encourage you to let others see this message.
Your friend for life, rrr
After receiving the email, Attorney Reines disseminated it to “no fewer than 35 existing and prospective clients, with accompanying comments soliciting their business based on the email.” (Dec. at 3). The Court concluded that “the dissemination of complimentary comments by a judge contained in a public document would not itself constitute a violation of Model Rule 8.4(e) . . . .” (Dec. at 6-7). The Respondent’s actions, however, constituted a violation based on five findings. First, the email from Chief Judge Rader described and implied a special relationship. Second, Recipients of the emails also viewed it as suggestive of a special relationship. Third, the emails also suggested that his special relationship with the court should be taken into account when clients selected counsel. Fourth, the emails sought to influence directly the potential clients’ choice of counsel. Finally, the emails suggested that the Court would look favorably on the selection of the Respondent as counsel. The Court stated, “It would blink reality not to view respondent’s action as suggesting his retention because his special relationship would help to secure a favorable outcome at the Federal Circuit.” (Dec. at 9-10).