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Misconduct allegations against TV lawyer Mike Morse do not reflect on all attorneys

May 30, 2018 by Steven M. Gursten

Comments to the recent Detroit Free Press story about alleged kickbacks and ethical misconduct involving Morse paint an unfair picture of the majority of lawyers who help people

There are today in Michigan probably a dozen or so personal injury lawyers and law firms who are flagrantly breaking the law and have been doing so for years.

But this blog isn’t about them.

This blog is about the overwhelming majority of injury lawyers in Michigan who chose this profession because they genuinely like people and want to help them. The majority of personal injury lawyers are ethical. They play-by-the-rules and are professionals who devote their entire legal careers and their reputations to helping and protecting people who desperately need help.

That’s why it infuriates me when the bad actors in my profession give the entire legal profession a black eye.

I don’t know whether the latest misconduct allegations that are being made against TV attorney Mike Morse will be ultimately proven true or not.

I do not know if the many rumors I hear about TV attorney Mike Morse will turn out to be true or not.

This blog is not about Mike Morse.

What this blog is about is the many comments from readers that accompanied JC Reindl’s latest story in the Detroit Free Press, “Lawsuit: Attorney Mike Morse had secret ties to MRI center.”

These reader comments were not being directed only at Mike Morse.

They are directed at all personal injury lawyers who get lumped together when allegations of serious ethical misconduct or illegal law breaking are being made.

That’s why I’ve also been such an outspoken critic about the utter failure – indeed, what is at this point probably the intentional decision to look the other way – of the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission and Commissioner Alan Gershel. At a time when there is today more lawyer fraud and illegal ambulance chasing and serious ethical misconduct than I have ever seen, the Attorney Grievance Commission has chosen to look the other way.  The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission has not prosecuted one case of lawyer ambulance chasing and illegal solicitation in nearly two decades. The explosion in illegal lawyer solicitation and ambulance chasing in cities like Detroit and Flint today have spread from just a few lawyers and law firms to now more than a dozen largely because of this inaction by the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

When the agency that is tasked with enforcing the ethical rules that all lawyers must meet isn’t doing its job, these rules become mere suggestions. And as the years pass and lawyers see the ones who are breaking the rules continue to profit, more and more lawyers will jump on the bandwagon and also choose to break the law and commit serious ethical misdeeds.

What did the Detroit Free Press report about TV lawyer Mike Morse?

Perhaps reading the article, it’s not surprising that some people who don’t personally know lawyers might come to the conclusion that what is being reported about Mike Morse actually reflects on all lawyers, just like honest politicians are tainted by bad ones. This is what the Detroit Free Press reported:

  • “Metro Detroit attorney Mike Morse accepted payments from medical clinics for his private jet and an addition to his house and had secret ties to an MRI center where his law firm referred clients, according to claims made in federal court by State Farm insurance company.”
  • “In the latest filings, State Farm says that Morse likely had secret financial ties to an MRI center in a Detroit suburb that ran through the brother-in-law. The MRI center also treated some Mike Morse Law Firm clients.”
  • “[C]iting emails and other documents, State Farm contends that Morse and his then-brother-in-law were either partners in the MRI center, or the brother-in-law acted as a ‘straw owner’ for Morse, or the center had an ‘illegal kickback’ arrangement that funneled money to Morse in exchange for him referring auto accident clients.”
  • It “was one of the highest-charging MRI centers in metro Detroit, billing more than $5,000 per image to patients paying with no-fault auto insurance. Hospitals often accept payment of less than $1,000 per image for similar MRIs for patients paying with private health insurance.”

And here’s how other readers responded:

This is also not the first time that serious ethical misconduct allegations have been made in the newspaper about Mike Morse. This is also not the first time I’ve written about Mike Morse being in front of the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission (and for today, I won’t even comment on the additional allegations of sexual misconduct that have also been in the news).

Putting aside the allegations being made about Mike Morse, it is important to remind the public at every opportunity that most attorneys are not like this and should the pleadings and allegations reported in the FREEP prove to be true then that should not be allowed to take away from the tremendous work most of us do helping people.

If I could speak to the people leaving these nasty reader comments about all personal injury lawyers, I’d tell them about how I started my own legal career. I was working for a top law firm in New York City when I decided I wanted to come back to home to Michigan and become a trial lawyer. I remember talking with my dad at the time and telling him about my decision to come home and work with him. He told me that I couldn’t unless it was for the right reasons. He said to me then that I could practice law with him and join our law firm only if I truly liked people and truly in my heart wanted to help them.

Those words have always stuck with me, and as the years have passed I’ve found that this also describes the majority of lawyers I know who do injury law. In the early years especially, many lawyers who do injury work chose to turn away from far more lucrative and higher paying jobs working for big defense law firms or doing corporate and insurance work to be “people lawyers.” Unlike the stereotypes about lawyers, most personal injury lawyers do not have private jets. The State Bar of Michigan reports that the average corporate lawyer and defense lawyer still makes more money on average than the average plaintiff personal injury lawyer.

Most of us do this work as a calling.

We do it because we care.

But not all of us.

And that’s why the reader comments to the latest Freep article about alleged ethical misconduct by Mike Morse bothered me so much.

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