By Michael Pezzulli and Charles J. Fortunado
State Bar of Texas: Advanced Creditors’ Rights presentation – September, 1996
In the past ten years, the gulf between criminal practice and civil practice has narrowed considerably.There are several causes for this. One is the explosion of white collar criminal litigation. More pervasive use of forfeiture statutes in the pursuit of attorney’s fees has also served to bring civil litigators under the purview of criminal law. The savings and loan and drug crises have also done their part to bring civil litigators’ conduct under scrutiny of criminal statutes.
Additionally, more aggressive use of grand jury proceedings has exposed civil litigators to the workings of criminal law. Law enforcement authorities are resorting to prosecutions against attorneys more frequently because attorneys are often deep pockets and as a means to undermine the most effective representation of the accused.
This paper examines some of the potential collisions between the civil attorney and criminal law. It will address situations where a civil attorney may become exposed to criminal liability in the course of rendering legal services. Attorneys need to know how currency transaction reporting requirements, smurfing, and parallel prosecution can unintentionally lead to trouble. It will also address parallel civil and criminal proceedings.
The issues discussed may seem obscure now. However, as law enforcement officials look for more effective tools to accomplish their ends, the trend is toward focusing more attention on attorneys.