Daily Briefs

Retired UAW vice president is the latest to plead guilty

DETROIT (AP) — A retired vice president at the United Auto Workers pleaded guilty Wednesday to corruption charges, admitting he received a $250,000 kickback after arranging a contract for 58,000 watches.

Joe Ashton led the union's General Motors department until July 2014 and also had a seat on the automaker's board.

Ten people with ties to the UAW have been charged in the corruption investigation; eight have pleaded guilty, including the widow of a union vice president. Separately, three people who worked at Fiat Chrysler have been convicted.

Ashton, 71, of Ocean View, New Jersey, appeared in Detroit federal court. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and faces roughly three years in prison when he's sentenced on March 3.

Ashton declined to comment. He awarded a $3.9 million contract from the UAW-GM training center for thousands of watches that remain in storage.

"He has asked me to apologize to all the members of the UAW. Good people make really bad decisions. ... He fully accepts responsibility," defense attorney Jerry Ballarotto told reporters.
Ballarotto said he'll offer an explanation — "not an excuse" — at sentencing.

In a statement, the UAW said Ashton's crimes are "against everything we stand for."

While negotiating new contracts with GM, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler, the UAW has been in a crisis for months because of the corruption investigation. Gary Jones, whose house was raided by federal agents in August, recently quit as president. He hasn't been charged.


ABA issues new ethical guidance for lawyers, firms to consider when lawyers go elsewhere

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released guidance recently exploring ethical obligations for lawyers when they change firms.
Formal Opinion 489 acknowledges that a lawyer has the right to switch firms and notes that ethics rules do not allow non-competition clauses in partnership, member, shareholder or employment agreements. When a lawyer gives notice, the formal opinion suggests the lawyer and the firm develop a plan that is orderly, flexible and “protects client interests during the lawyer’s transition.”

The guidance also cites several model rules to consider under the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct related to the orderly transition of client matters and restraints on a client’s choice of counsel.

“Firms may require some period of advance notice of an intended departure,” Formal Opinion 489 said. “The period of time should be the minimum necessary, under the circumstances, for clients to make decisions about who will represent them, assemble files, adjust staffing at the firm if the firm is to continue as counsel on matters previously handled by the departing attorney, and secure firm property in the departing lawyer’s possession. Firm notification requirements, however, cannot be so rigid that they restrict or interfere with a client’s choice of counsel or the client’s choice of when to transition a matter.”

Recent ABA ethics opinions are available on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility website.


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