For several months between 2014 and 2016, Atlanta personal injury lawyer Chalmer Detling, II, allegedly accepted loan checks in his law office that were intended to pay for his clients living expenses, medical expenses, and litigation costs. But his clients never knew about these checks, which were often for tens of thousands of dollars. Detling allegedly used his clients’ names and personal information to apply for the loans, having the checks sent to his law office, and then pocketing the money. According to the United States Justice Department:
Detling allegedly obtained 50 fraudulent litigation advances totaling more than $383,000 in the names of 36 clients. Detling applied for the fraudulent litigation advances using personal identifying information of his clients, including their names and Social Security numbers. He allegedly submitted applications that were purportedly signed and executed by his respective clients, but Detling knew when he submitted the agreement paperwork that the clients had not actually executed the agreements.
Detling’s scheme was eventually uncovered, and in October of 2016, the Supreme Court of Georgia accepted Detling’s petition to voluntarily surrender his law license in lieu of an extensive investigation. But the consequences didn’t end there for Detling. The ex-lawyer is now facing criminal charges as a result of his conduct. In August of 2018, the United States Justice Department announced that Detling has been arraigned on seven counts of wire fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. The Georgia Bar Association is assisting with the Justice Department’s investigation.
If these allegations are true, we do not know why Detling behaved the way that he did. Perhaps there are mitigating circumstances and perhaps his (ex)-clients can and will forgive him. Regardless, Detling’s conduct, if true, was illegal and constituted a serious breach of the attorney-client relationship. It was proper for both the Georgia Bar Association and the Justice Department to take action.
The Importance of Trust in the Attorney-Client Relationship
Any fraudulent behavior by an attorney is made worse by the fact that it violates the mandate of trust that attorneys have with regards to clients. When people need legal help, they place an enormous amount of trust in their attorney. It is incumbent upon attorneys to always act in their clients’ best interests and to communicate honestly with their clients. These principles form the basis for many of the specific ethics rules found in the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct which all Georgia attorneys are bound by. Needless to say, Detling’s conduct, if true, violated many of these rules through his conduct.
Williams Elleby, knows that personal injury victims are often emotionally and financially vulnerable and come to their personal injury attorney to help them get much-needed compensation. The attorneys and staff at Williams Elleby, strive to maintain the trust of each client, to provide the best possible service, and to maximize compensation in every case. If you have been injured in an accident, contact Williams Elleby, to schedule a free case evaluation today by calling (833) LEGALGA.