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In Re Schnitzer

January 1911

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR THE DISBARRMENT OF WILLIAM H. SCHNITZER.


Sylvester S. Downer, Chas. R. Lewers, James T. Boyd, W. A. Massey, and Cole L. Harwood, for Petitioner.

Platt & Gibbons, for Respondent.

Per Curiam:

That the purpose of the pamphlet, published by respondent, was to attract persons, residing outside the State of Nevada, and citizens of other states and counties, to come to this state for the ultimate purpose of applying to its courts for divorce, through the agency of the respondent as an attorney, in order that he might profit financially thereby, is too manifest to require other than the bare

[33 Nev. 581, Page 590]

statement. That the object of the advertisements quoted was to extend the circulation of the pamphlet is equally obvious. This method of advertising is highly reprehensible and contrary to the ethics of the legal profession, as universally recognized. Even if statements contained in the pamphlet were not open to question, either as to fact or law, nevertheless, the purpose for which the pamphlet was issued and the advertisements published merits a severe rebuke.

The pamphlet, however, contains statements that, to say the least, are misleading. It is not true that the laws of this state permit a divorce “upon almost any charge for which lack of harmonious relations may be reasonably inferred.” It is not true that the testimony of the plaintiff in a divorce case whether or not there be a “real contest” can be heard “before the judge in private chambers.” The testimony in divorce proceedings must be before the court. An action for the dissolution of the bonds of matrimony, whether contested or not, is not a proceeding that a judge can hear in chambers. Even if we were to accept the explanation of respondent that he only intended to convey the information that in uncontested cases the court could hold sessions in the private chambers of the judge, nevertheless, that would not be the meaning which the layman would naturally place upon the language used.

Petitioners have attacked the correctness of a number of statements contained in respondent's pamphlet as to the law of this state upon the subject of divorce; but we do not deem it essential in this proceeding to determine these questions. It would be sufficient to rest our condemnation of the conduct of the respondent upon the pamphlet and advertisements upon a bare recital of the same without comment. They speak for themselves and are unworthy the high calling that respondent has followed, as he says, for twenty years. the courts of Nevada were established and are maintained for the protection of her citizens and citizens of other states and countries having dealings with the citizens of this state.

[33 Nev. 581, Page 591]

An attorney who, for purposes of personal gain, seeks to make the courts of this state a clearinghouse for the domestic woes, real or imaginary, of the country at large, is certainly guilty of misconduct. (Comp. Laws, 2625; People v. MacCabe, 18 Colo. 186, 32 Pac. 280, 19 L. R. A. 231, 36 Am. St. Rep. 270; People v. Taylor, 32 Colo. 250, 75 Pac. 914; Ingersoll v. Coal Creek Coal Co., 117 Tenn. 263, 98 S. W. 178, 9 L. R. A. (N. S.) 282, 295, 119 Am. St. Rep. 1003; People v. Goodrich, 79 Ill. 148; 4 Cyc. 911.)

In People v. MacCabe, supra, the Supreme Court of Colorado, by Mr. Justice Elliott, said:

“The ethics of the legal profession forbid that an attorney should advertise his talents or his skill as a shopkeeper advertises his wares. An attorney may properly accept a retainer for the prosecution or defense of an action for divorce when convinced that his client has a good cause. But for any one to invite or encourage such litigation is most reprehensible. The marriage relation is too sacred; it affects too deeply the happiness of the family; it concerns too intimately the welfare of society; it lies too near the foundation of all good government—to be broken up or disturbed for slight or transient causes.

“In the present case we are not called upon to deal with a matter of ordinary advertising, but with a peculiar kind of advertising. Respondent did not advertise for business openly, giving his name and office address. His advertisement was anonymous and well calculated to encourage people to make application for divorces who might otherwise have refrained from so doing. When a lawyer advertises that divorces can be legally obtained very quietly, and that such divorces will be good everywhere, such advertisement is a strong inducement—a powerful temptation—to many persons to apply for divorces who would otherwise be deterred from taking such a step from a wholesome fear of public opinion. * * * The advertisement published by respondent, to the effect that divorces could be legally obtained very quietly which should be good everywhere, was the more mischievous because anonymous. Such an advertisement

[33 Nev. 581, Page 592]

is against good morals, public and private; it is a false representation and a libel ...


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