Oh yes, he did. Today it's an Indiana attorney in the hotseat, who decided it was time to discard 14 boxes of client files. We don't know how old the cases were, only that he decided to go green and recycle them.
Sound like a good idea?
Not so much.
Said attorney directed his grown children to take the boxes chock full of intact client documents to a local recycling center, where they left them beside the bins. Because said bins were full. (Not that it would have made any difference if there had been room in the bins.)
Along comes a strong breeze, blows the tops off the boxes, and suddenly, all that sensitive and confidential information is blowin' in the wind for the whole world to see.
Someone called the attorney, who retrieved the documents. But someone else must have called the state bar and filed a complaint.
On September 30 the Indiana Supreme Court issued a reprimand, finding that the attorney had violated ethical rules that prohibit the release of current or former client information without consent. Actually placing the files in the recycling bins would not have changed the outcome because:
"[T]he information would've been available for opportunists to retrieve, with potentially devastating consequences to the clients," the court wrote. "Shredding client files an attorney no longer needs prior to disposal is one alternative for providing far safer protection of client information."
Recycling's a good thing when it comes to old newspapers, but a dumb idea when it comes to case files. I like to think no paralegal worth her salt would have discarded client files in such a careless manner. She would have made the attorney buy a nice shredder, or hire a trustworthy shredding service.
All those aluminum soda cans discarded by lawyers, clients and staff are a different story. Knock yourself out recycling them.