Want legal ethics advice? There’s an app for that

The New York State Bar Association has introduced a mobile app that gives judges, lawyers, law students and the public at large instant answers to legal ethics questions on their smartphones.

The app contains more than 900 searchable ethics opinions, dating back to 1964, on legal issues in categories from acceptance of employment to zoning board issues. Decisions can be searched by keyword, category or opinion number.

“Ethics questions can arise in many different contexts. The NYSBA Mobile Ethics App will allow judges, lawyers and others to access the opinions of the Association’s Professional Ethics Committee on the spot from the convenience of their mobile devices,” Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III said in a statement. “The State Bar is pleased to provide this service to its members and the legal community.”

This is the Bar’s latest foray into making the law accessible online. Last year, it launched the eLAP website, a secure portal for accessing lawyer assistance information and services. The Bar also improved its website’s search engine and offered its members discount subscriptions to Clio, a cloud-based practice management system designed for solo practitioners and small law firms.

The Ethics app is available on Apple’s App Store, the Android Market, BlackBerry’s App World and on the state bar website at www.nysba.org/ethicsapp.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association,  founded in 1876, is the largest voluntary bar association in the nation.

Attack of the ringtones

The courtroom of Westchester County Judge Susan Capeci turned into a “Thriller” this morning, thanks to a ringing cell phone.

As you may know, cell phone use is banned in Westchester courtrooms and signs outside each courtroom door asks people to turn off all electronic devices before they come in (Although many, many lawyers sneak in Blackberry e-mails while waiting for their cases to be called).

Today, during a third-degree grand larceny disposition (that’s plea bargain for the non-attorney types), the cell phone of court interpreter Rossana Testino-Burke rang to the famous Michael Jackson song, cracking up just about everyone around. Even the judge had to put a manilla folder in front of her face to hide her laughter as Testino-Burke scrambled to grab her phone and run toward chambers.

Give credit to the young ADA, however — he didn’t miss a beat and kept on asking the defendant questions to make sure she understood her rights and consequences of her guilty plea.

Count me guilty of forgetting to turn off a cell phone. Early on, my phone rang while a woman testified about she discovered her boyfriend’s murdered body in his home. The chewing out I got from the prosecutor is something I’ve yet to forget. It’s now habit for me to turn my cell phone on “silent” so I can still check messages from editors, co-workers, attorneys, etc.

Ah, cell phones … our own little Lo-Jacks.