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In re Morford

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 18, 1951

In re MORFORD et al.

Petition for the discipline of attorneys, members of the Bar of the Supreme Court filed at the direction of the Court upon the receipt of a report of the Censor Committee recommending their discipline. The Supreme Court, Per Curiam, denied the prayers of the petition.

Petition denied.

Petition for the discipline of the respondents, members of the Bar of this Court, filed at the direction of the Court upon the receipt of a report of the Censor Committee recommending their discipline.

Clarence A. Southerland and Alexander L. Nichols, of Wilmington, petitioners by appointment of the Court.

[46 Del. 145] Daniel J. Layton, of Georgetown, for respondent James R. Morford.

Arthur G. Connolly, of Wilmington, for respondent Morton E. Evans.

WOLCOTT, Chancellor, RICHARDS, C. J., TERRY, CAREY, JJ., SEITZ, V. Chancellor, and HERRMANN, J., sitting.

PER CURIAM.

The petition prays that the respondents be required to show cause why disciplinary measures should not be directed against them. The respondents waived the issuance of a rule and filed their answers to the petition praying that it be dismissed. By stipulation of the parties, the case is to be determined upon the petition, answers and transcript of the testimony taken before the Censor Committee, excluding therefrom the testimony of certain witnesses deemed to be immaterial.

The facts as we find them must be set forth at some length. In January, 1949 one of the respondents, James R. Morford, Esquire (hereinafter called ‘ Morford’ ) was retained as counsel for the defendant in the case of Short and Walls Lumber Co. v. Florence Blome, a civil action in the Superior Court of New Castle County. The theory of the plaintiff in that action was that the defendant, Blome, had purchased lumber from one William Sapp with knowledge that Sapp had obtained such lumber from the plaintiff by false pretenses.

[46 Del. 146] On February 3, 1949, while Sapp was in jail in Kent County serving an 18-months sentence on a number of criminal charges of false pretenses, he was interviewed by Morford in the course of preparing the defense in the civil action. Morford did not represent Sapp and had had no prior association with him. At that time, Sapp exonerated Morford's client in the civil action of any knowledge of the false pretenses which Sapp had practiced on the plaintiff therein. At the same time, Sapp told Morford that he had records which would materially assist the defendant in the defense of the civil action. He said that such records were in his wife's possession but that he would get them for Morford.

In March, 1949 Sapp was interviewed in the Kent County jail by counsel for the plaintiff in the civil action. This took place in the presence of the attorney who represented Sapp in the criminal cases. During this interview, Sapp executed an affidavit directly implicating Morford's client in the false pretenses practiced on the plaintiff in the civil action. This affidavit was used as the basis for a motion for summary judgment by plaintiff. Subsequently the motion was denied. See Short & Walls Lumber Co. v. Blome, Del.Super., 75 A.2d 234.

When Morford saw that Sapp had given plaintiff's attorney an affidavit which contained a story diametrically opposed to the remarks which Sapp had previously made to him, he concluded that Sapp was probably lying about the records which he said were in his wife's possession.

Thereafter, Morford was also retained as counsel for the same ...


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