Friday, March 7, 2014
The Nevada Supreme Court denied a writ sought by a Las Vegas family court judge to derail an ongoing investigation into a host of allegations of misconduct involving, among other things, a federal fraud investigation, sex with an extern, domestic violence and taking marijuana that had been seized as evidence.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on a recent three-month suspension of the judge last month as a result of an inappropriate relationship with a now-deceased prosecutor:
Following a week-long hearing in December, the judicial commission found that special prosecutors proved eight of 12 charges filed against Jones related to his relationship with Willardson, who still appeared before him.
Jones discovered Willardson’s body in the bathroom of her Henderson home on Dec. 26, the same day the commission’s decision on the charges was made public.
There were no signs of foul play, and the coroner is waiting for toxicology results before ruling on the cause of her death.
Commission prosecutors had accused Jones of violating rules of the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct that require judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.
The commission ruled prosecutors proved three counts that were tied directly to the judge’s affair with Willardson between October and December 2011.
Two of the counts alleged Jones improperly maintained the relationship while Willardson litigated child welfare cases before him and then did not disqualify himself from the cases. He issued a ruling in her favor in December, long after they had begun to date.
The other count accused Jones of interfering with Roger’s decision to remove Willardson from a child welfare unit that prosecuted cases in the judge’s courtroom.
The commission also found that prosecutors presented strong evidence to sustain three counts accusing Jones of using his judicial office to help Willardson prepare a response to a State Bar complaint against her stemming from their romantic relationship.
In this article on emails produced at the hearing, the prosecutor reportedly described the judge as "smoking hot."
In its opinion, the court held that a judge under investigation has more limited rights than after charges are brought.
The opinion in Jones v. Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline can be found at this link. (Mike Frisch)
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has imposed a censure as reciprocal discipline for a sanction imposed in New Jersey.
Respondent was employed as an associate in several law firms from 1995 through 2010, except for a period between 2002 and 2004, and 2009, when he maintained his license in New Jersey but was not actively practicing, but was active in New York. Since September 27, 2007, respondent was placed on the New Jersey Supreme Court's ineligible list for failure to pay annual registration fees.
In 2009, respondent joined his father in the practice of law at which time his father promised to pay the overdue fees. In 2010, respondent began accepting small matters pending in municipal court, including one case in the West New York, N.J. Municipal Court. For approximately one year, respondent repeatedly failed to appear in court, failed to file the appropriate paperwork, and requested unreasonable adjournments. Respondent ultimately did not comply with various court orders. This behavior led the Presiding Judge to contact the Board of Bar Examiners to determine the status of respondent's law license. When the Judge learned that respondent's license had been "suspended," the matter was referred to the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), which assigned the matter to the District Ethics Committee (DEC).
The practice in New Jersey while ineligible was a violation of Rule 5.5(a). The attorney also had failed to inorm New York of the New Jersey sancyion. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, March 6, 2014
The Florida Supreme Court today issued an opinion holding that unauthorized immigrants are prohibited from seeking admission to practice law in the Sunshine State:
...we answer the Florida Board of Bar Examiners’ question by holding that unauthorized immigrants are ineligible for admission to The Florida Bar. Applicants are required to demonstrate that they are legally present in the United States.
It is so ordered
Justice Labarga "reluctantly" concurred
Based on the foregoing, it is evident that the only barrier to admission to The Florida Bar for Applicant and others similarly situated is 8 U.S.C. §§ 1621(a) and (c). Indeed, in many respects, Applicant’s life in the United States parallels my own. He and I were brought to this great nation as young children by our hardworking immigrant parents. We both learned to read, write, and speak the English language within a short period of time. We excelled scholastically and graduated from college and law school—Applicant from Florida State University and I from the University of Florida. Both of us were driven by the opportunities this great nation offered to realize the American dream. Sadly, however, here the similarities end and the perceptions of our accomplishments begin. When I arrived in the United States from Cuba in 1963, soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis—the height of the Cold War—my parents and I were perceived as defectors from a tyrannical communist regime. Thus, we were received with open arms, our arrival celebrated, and my path to citizenship and the legal profession unimpeded by public policy decisions. Applicant, however, who is perceived to be a defector from poverty, is viewed negatively because his family sought an opportunity for economic prosperity. It is this distinction of perception, a distinction that I cannot justify regarding admission to The Florida Bar, that is at the root of Applicant’s situation. Applicant is so near to realizing his goals yet so agonizingly far because, regrettably, unlike the California Legislature, the Florida Legislature has not exercised its considerable authority on this important question. Thus, only reluctantly do I concur with the majority decision.
An attorney who had converted entrusted funds should be suspended for a year, with six months stayed on probation, according to a recent report of the Illinois Review Board.
The attorney had settled a wrongful death claim for estates of two people killed in a fire for $90,000. He escrowed the settlement and properly paid out over $80,000. The rest remained in escrow because he was unable to locate two heirs.
The money stayed, the balance slipped below the amount due the remaining heirs.
When inquiries were made, the attorney's initial response was not true. When subsequent inquiries were not responded to, a complaint was filed with the ARDC.
Practice Pointer I:
This complaint likely could have been avoided if the attorney had been responsive to the concerns of the heirs and arranged to pay what was due.
Practice Pointer II:
If someone goes to the Bar to complain, don't do this:
Throughout the investigation, and in discovery after the Complaint against Respondent was filed, Respondent denied he converted the settlement proceeds. Prior to hearing, he claimed to the Chair that the proceeding against him was "frivolous" and that the bank had made errors which caused a technical conversion by wrongly transferring money from his client fund account to cover overdrafts in his other accounts. At hearing, Respondent conceded that the funds were used for his business and personal expenses without authorization from Rhodes and Scott. However, he continued to blame the conversion on the bank's transfers of funds from his client fund account to his other accounts. He testified that he did not authorize the transfers and did not notice them at the time. However, these bank transfers occurred in 2010 and 2011, after the account balance had already occasionally dipped below the amount Respondent was supposed to be holding and after he had been informed that Rhodes and Scott had not been paid.
Respondent had significant debts and was under a good deal of financial pressure at the time of the conversions: creditors had initiated legal action, his home was in foreclosure, he had financial obligations arising from his divorce, he took out numerous loans, and his personal and business account was overdrawn on occasion.
The board found that the conduct involved dishonesty.
There are places where findings like that can get a lawyer disbarred. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department has ordered a suspension of six months for the following misconduct
Charge one alleges that the respondent "made a materially false statement and/or deliberately failed to disclose a material fact" requested in connection with his application for admission to the Bar, in violation of rule 8.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0). In or about December 2010, the respondent filed an application for admission to the Bar of the State of New York with the Committee on Character and Fitness for the Second Judicial Department, dated and notarized on November 30, 2010. On that application, the respondent answered "No" to the following question:
"12. Have you ever, either as an adult or a juvenile, been cited, arrested, taken into custody, charged with, indicted, convicted or tried for, or pleaded guilty to, the commission of any felony or misdemeanor or the violation of any law, except minor parking violations, or been the subject of any juvenile delinquency or youthful offender proceeding?"
The respondent knew at the time he completed and filed his Bar application that, on or about April 22, 2008, in the Criminal Court of the City of New York, Kings County, he had pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192(3), an unclassified misdemeanor.
In view of the evidence adduced, and the respondent's admissions, the Special Referee properly sustained the charge. Accordingly, the Grievance Committee's motion to confirm the report of the Special Referee is granted.
In mitigation, the respondent asks the Court to consider the following circumstances: his relative young age; his cooperation with the Grievance Committee; his sincere remorse; the fact that he has learned from his mistake and presents no risk of engaging in misconduct in the future; the fact that he overcame his personal and family circumstances as a refugee from Ukraine; and his excellent reputation as an honest and ethical attorney.
Notwithstanding the above mitigating factors, the respondent failed to disclose his arrest or conviction on more than one occasion. He not only failed to disclose his conviction on his application to the Bar, but he failed to disclose his arrest on his application to Thomas Cooley School of Law, and failed to disclose his conviction on his application to transfer to Hofstra Law School. The respondent testified that he knew that his conduct at the time to be ethically and morally wrong, but that he really wanted to gain admission to law school, and also feared that disclosure of his conviction would result in a denial of his application for admission to the Bar. The Court considers these multiple omissions to be an aggravating factor.
Lesson: tell the truth on law school and bar admission applications. (Mike Frisch)
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has reversed and remanded five cases where a new trial had been granted to defendants who pleaded guilty
Commonwealth v. Davila is reprinted below
Like Commonwealth v. Scott, ante (2014); Commonwealth v. Torres, post (2014); and Commonwealth v. Bjork, post (2014), this case is one of four decided today in which the Commonwealth appeals a grant of the defendant's motion to vacate his guilty plea under Mass. R.Crim. P. 30(b), as appearing in 435 Mass. 1501 (2001). This case arises out of the revelation of the wrongdoing of Annie Dookhan, a chemist at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute's forensic drug laboratory (Hinton drug lab) from 2003 to 2012. The full extent of the investigation into Dookhan's conduct is set forth in Scott, supra at, and reveals multiple deliberate breaches of laboratory and testing protocols by Dookhan as well as her falsification of test results for forensic evidence samples in an unknown, and likely unidentifiable, number of drug cases until her June, 2011, reassignment out of the Hinton drug lab.
Here, the defendant was charged with one count of distribution of a class A controlled substance (heroin) and one count of distribution of a class B controlled substance ("crack" cocaine) under G.L. c. 94C, §§ 32 (a ) and 32A (a ), respectively. Like the defendant in Scott, the defendant here entered into a plea agreement with the Commonwealth before the allegations against Dookhan came to light. Furthermore, Dookhan signed both of the certificates of drug analysis in the defendant's case on the line labeled "Assistant Analyst." Upon learning of the investigation of Dookhan, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, which was granted. The Commonwealth appealed, and we granted the Commonwealth's application for direct appellate review.
For all the reasons set forth in Scott, we vacate the grant of the defendant's motion to withdraw his pleas. We remand the case so that the defendant may file a motion to amend his motion for a new trial to assert that his pleas were involuntary and unintelligent in order to avail himself of the conclusive presumption we have set forth in Scott. The trial court judge must then consider whether the defendant can show a reasonable probability that had he known of Dookhan's misconduct at the time of his pleas, he would have refused to plead guilty and insisted on going to trial.
The order granting the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings in light of Scott, supra.
The Scott decision is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
The Indiana Supreme Court has removed a superior court judge from office as a result of what the court characterized as serious judicial misconduct.
...alleged mismanagement, delays, and dereliction of judicial duties on cases; display of an inappropriate demeanor, retaliation, and creation of a hostile environment for attorneys and others working in the court; failure to complete necessary paperwork and adequately train or supervise court staff, which resulted in delayed releases of defendants from jail; and failure to cooperate with members of the Marion Superior Court’s Executive Committee to address the underlying issues that led to the delayed releases.
The court approved findings of three appointed masters. Among the findings were discourteous behavior to judges and attorneys in general but
The Respondent treated public defenders even worse. The Respondent’s dissatisfaction with public defenders assigned to Court 16 began as early as 2009, when she asked supervisors in the public defender’s office to reassign two public defenders from Court 16 because, according to the Respondent, they were "too adversarial," "extremely litigious," and not "aiding in the movement of cases."
From 2011 through 2012, the Respondent made the following derogatory comments, among others, in front of court staff. The Respondent crassly remarked about a particular deputy prosecutor’s weight on several occasions, once quipping that the deputy prosecutor "should have used that law school money and gone to Jenny Craig instead." The Respondent expressed disbelief that one public defender had passed the bar, adding that he must have had "someone … supporting him behind the scenes" or words to that effect. She called one attorney a "moron" and another "a pain in [the] ass." She referred to a supervisor in the public defender’s office as "evil," "very nasty," and "out to get certain people." Once in 2012, after a hearing involving a public defender, she walked into her office with a court employee and asked, regarding that public defender, "Can you believe that asshole, prick, dick, and did I mention he was an asshole?"
The Respondent had a practice in Courts 16 and 7 of favoring some court employees over others and keeping at least one employee as a confidant. She told some favored employees that she was suspicious of other employees, whom she described as "disloyal," "out to get" her, and not to be trusted. The Respondent made the following inappropriate comments, among others, to favored court employees about other employees: that one employee "wears her lesbianism on her sleeve," one was "ghetto fabulous," one would not have gotten her job "if it wasn’t for her daddy," one was "classless" with a "felon" for a boyfriend and "into illegal things," and others were "crazy," mentally ill, or in need of increased medication. These comments made the employees who heard them uncomfortable. Whenever a favored employee disagreed with the Respondent’s views or suggested she was being overly suspicious or critical, the Respondent stopped treating that employee as a confidant and asked that employee to return the judge’s office key with which that employee had been entrusted.
The Respondent openly ignored disfavored employees, took away some of their job responsibilities, did not respond promptly to their requests for time off, and did not share information with them in advance regarding when the Respondent would be absent and other scheduling matters. The disfavored employees felt ignored, disliked, and insufficiently informed.
The court considerd and rejected arguments against removal from judicial office
Regrettably, the Respondent’s pattern of neglect, hostility, retaliation, and recalcitrance toward investigating officials indicates an unwillingness or inability on her part to remedy deficiencies, alone or with others’ assistance. And the record in the present case does reveal attempts by others to help. Most notably, the Marion Superior Court’s Executive Committee tried to assist the Respondent in addressing the problem of delayed releases from jail, but the Executive Committee’s involvement was met by the Respondent’s hostility, noncooperation, and inaccurate representation that the problem had been rectified. On other occasions, the Respondent failed to work with other court officials, clerk’s office supervisors, and a supervisor in the prosecutor’s office who offered to help locate a courtroom for a trial. And, when the Commission later attempted to gather information about cases, the Respondent failed to cooperate fully and often presented untimely, incomplete, inconsistent, or unresponsive replies.
The court did not impose sanctions against the now-former judge's law license. (Mike Frisch)
The censure order of the North Carolina State Bar Grievance Committee of the attorney "who employed other attorneys' names and names of law firms in a keyword advertising campaign through GoogleAdWords program" is linked here.
On April 27, 2012, the North Carolina State Bar Ethics Committee published 2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 14, which states that an attorney's purchase or use of another attorney's name in an Internet search engine's keyword-advertising program is dishonest and therefore violates Rule 8.4( c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. After the publication of this ethics opinion, you continued to intentionally add inappropriate keywords to your Google AdWords advertising campaign; your inappropriate keywords consisted of other individual attorney names (including attorney nicknames), names of law firms, and names of judicial officials.
Although you claimed that any inclusion of inappropriate keywords in your advertising campaign was inadvertent and was the result of your bulk-purchase of keywords suggested by Google, your history of keyword purchases demonstrates that you specifically selected and approved a number of these keywords for inclusion in your advertising campaign.
It is your duty to scrutinize all keywords prior to adding the keyword to your advertising campaign, regardless of whether you created the keyword or whether the keyword was suggested to you. Your intentional inclusion of other attorneys' names and law firms in your keyword advertising campaign is dishonest...
It is somewhat noteworthy that the attorney was suspended from practice in 1993 for charging telephone calls to adult entertainment numbers to the Guilford County Courthouse to the tune of over $8,700.
He was convicted of a criminal offense as a result. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Last week, we noted an opinion of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals denying client security fund repayment to a company that makes loans to attorney with payment due from any settlement proceeds.
This announcement from the web page of the Pennsylvania Bar Disciplinary Board
The Supreme Court has adopted amendments to the rules governing the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security, setting some limits on claims against the Fund. In a rule issued January 24, 2014, published at 44 Pa.B. 768 (2/8/14), the Court amended Rule 514 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement to make two significant changes.
First, the list of entities who may not make a claim set forth in Rule 514(a)(4) was amended to exclude claims by a business organization having twenty or more employees. In an unusual step, Chief Justice Castille dissented from the per curiam order, writing,
In my view, the purpose of the Fund does not include reimbursing large entities which are sufficiently positioned to insure against losses. I would prefer an amendment that applied to “a business organization having five or more employees.”
Second, a provision was added to Rule 514(b) stating that the maximum amount of claims disbursed on account of any one attorney shall be one million dollars. The Board may, however, request permission of the Supreme Court to exceed this amount when necessary to adequately compensate all victims of the covered attorney, and exceeding the maximum will not unduly burden the Fund. The limit that may be paid to any individual claimant remains at $100,000.
The Tennessee Magistrate facing ethics charges for changing a child's name from Messiah to Martin has filed a statement denying the charges.
The submission seeks to distinguish cases cited by Disciplinary Counsel and concludes
Of all the forms of human expression, there are none with such permanent, life-altering consequences for another human being who lacks any ability to counter it, then the choice of a name. Children have no control over their names, and a child's only protection from potentially detrimental names lies with the state. Magistrate Ballew made a very difficult decision and she based that decision on her knowledge of the community and the future difficulties she thought that a child named "Messiah" might face.
Thus, the Magistrate seeks dismissal of the charges for lack of clear and convincing evidence.
Remarkable that the Magistrate would cite community intolerance as a basis to take this action.
Update: The New York Times is reporting that the matter has been concluded with a censure.
Update II: A Tennessee termination of parental rights case was just remanded. The child's first name is Karma. What goes around comes around. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, March 3, 2014
A report from the March 2014 California Bar Journal
A Berkeley defense attorney must surrender her law license for two years for smuggling documents out of jail on behalf of a defendant later convicted in the notorious murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. Lorna Patton Brown [#133795], 67, was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on three years’ probation and ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Jan. 5, 2014.
Brown initially stipulated to two counts of misconduct related to her representation of accused murderer Yusuf Bey IV, but the California Supreme Court returned the matter for further consideration as to the recommended discipline.
In concluding that Brown’s behavior warranted more than the six-month period of actual suspension she stipulated to, State Bar Court Judge Pat McElroy wrote that Brown committed acts involving concealment and dishonesty and that she “knew she should not have been relaying personal messages from her client without the permission of jail authorities.
“Respondent willfully ignored her duties as an attorney, as well as the health and safety of the witnesses who planned to testify against her client. And when the District Attorney’s Office began investigating the matter and questioned respondent about her actions, she lied,” McElroy wrote in her decision. “All told, the ramifications of respondent’s misconduct could have been devastating.”
Brown was appointed in August 2009 as counsel for Bey, who was indicted on three counts of murder, after Bey’s previous attorney withdrew from the case because he was unable to control his client. Brown’s misconduct sprang from a March 2010 visit she made to Bey at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, during which he gave her legal documents. The papers included grand jury and witness interview transcripts and a card addressed to his common-law wife, Alaia Bey. The card contained written material that Brown should have not taken from the jail without first getting permission.
A couple of days later, Brown met Bey’s sister-in-law Aisha Taylor on a street corner, where she gave her documents in manila envelopes, including the card for Alaia and a list of witnesses’ names Brown placed in an envelope so Taylor could pass them along to Bey’s “number one soldier” Gary Popoff. Authorities learned about the documents from a confidential informant and recovered the envelopes from Popoff shortly after Taylor gave them to him.
When first interviewed by investigators from the district attorney’s office, Brown denied removing the documents from the jail without permission. She said she did not know about the greeting card and had not helped deliver the witness list to Popoff. Brown asked to be removed from the case later that month over a conflict of interest and ultimately volunteered to be interviewed a second time, during which she admitted to lying.
In mitigation, Brown had no prior record of discipline in 22 years of practicing law, cooperated with the State Bar during the disciplinary investigation and proceedings and showed remorse and a willingness to accept responsibility for her misconduct. She received limited mitigation for testimony from six character witnesses.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected the appeal of a New Jersey company that was denied compensation from the Bar's Client Protection Fund.
The court held that the claim had properly been rejected by the fund's trustees.
American Asset Finance LLC is in the business of purchasing from attorneys proceeds of settlements that have not yet come to fruition. The attorney receives a lump sum in exchange for the promise to pay the company when funds are received.
The company made four loans to attorney Bradley Schwartz. He was later disbarred by consent for misappropriation. The company turned to the fund for payment of the loans.
The court here agreed with the trustees that the company's interest was not the product of an attorney-client relationship with Schwartz. Nor was the situation the type of fiduciary relationship governed by Rule 1.15.
Thus, there was no basis to award compensation. (Mike Frisch)
Friday, February 28, 2014
Those of us who follow the opinions issued by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals always keep an eye open for the decisions written by Judge Charles E. Moylan, Jr.
Simply put, Judge Moylan knows how to write in a clear yet entertaining style that makes his opinions a pleasure to read.
That skill is on display in a decision issued yesterday.
Judge Moylan introduces the issue
There is a venerable body of law, of which Wernsing v. General Motors Corp., 298 Md. 406, 470 A.2d 802 (1984), is the avatar, seeking to preserve the advantages of finality and repose in jury verdicts once rendered. There is a counter body of law, of which Jenkins v. State, 375 Md. 284, 825 A.2d 1008 (2003), is the more recent avatar, dedicated to rooting out jury verdicts that are tainted. There is unquestioned merit in both philosophies. At times, however, they meet in tectonic collision.
There is an understandable tendency in those moving for new trials on the basis of tainted verdicts to wrap themselves in the mantle of Jenkins (and several criminal cases in its slip stream) and to pay faint heed to the long procession of opinions in the Wernsing v. General Motors tradition. There is a counter tendency, as the State opposes the retrial motions, to exalt the pedigree of Wernsing and to give scant, if not disdainful, notice to Jenkins. Opposing advocates sometimes challenge an appellate court to flip a coin between conflicting and seemingly irreconcilable approaches. There has to be a better way.
At issue was a case of bedbug infestation in a rental unit. The plaintiff had sued her landlord and lost. Her attorney encountered a juror in the parking lot after the verdict and filed a motion based on the juror's statements.
Here, the court affirmed the trial court's decision not to grant a new trial. (Mike Frisch)
The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department affirmed a trial court order declining to dismiss a legal malpractice claim.
The plaintiff's sister worked for the defendant law firm, in which the individual defendants are partners. During his sister's employment, the plaintiff came to learn of an investment opportunity being organized by the defendants, which involved providing high interest, short-term loans for the development of real estate. The plaintiff and his wife decided to participate. Two bank checks, one of which was purchased by the plaintiff's wife and bore only her name, were forwarded to the defendants for the purpose of making two loans. When these two loans were not repaid in full, the plaintiff commenced this action seeking to recover from the defendants the money that he was owed, claiming that the defendants effectively borrowed the money from him (first and second causes of action). In the alternative, the plaintiff sought damages for legal malpractice (third cause of action). The plaintiff made a pre-discovery motion for summary judgment on the complaint, and the defendants cross-moved, inter alia, to dismiss the second cause of action pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(3), for lack of standing, and to dismiss the complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1), based upon documentary evidence. The Supreme Court denied the motion and the cross motion.
The court here comncluded that the law firm's documentary evidence failed to "utterly refute" the plaintiff's claims. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, February 27, 2014
The Arizona Presiding Disciplinary Judge has approved a consent disposition in a case involving the attorney's home mortgage:
For purposes of this agreement the parties agree that Respondent knowingly indicated to a bank in writing that his home had been paid off with "funds derived from real estate investments," when he knew the home was paid off as a result of a mortgage company disbursement error. Respondent knew that the information that he provided would be relied on by the bank.
An aggravating factor was dishonest motive. (Mike Frisch)
Prominent divorce attorney Glenn C. Lewis has been disbarred by the Maryland Court of Appeals.
The court imposed discipline based on findings of misconduct in a Maryland matter.
Lewis had his license revoked in Virginia. The District of Columbia imposed disbarment as reciprocal discipline for the Virginia misconduct.
The Blog of the Legal Times reported on the D.C. sanction
Glenn Lewis, a one-time prominent member of the Washington-area divorce bar, was disbarred yesterday. The order comes several months after the Virginia State Bar stripped him of his law license.
The Virginia disciplinary board found Lewis took fees from clients without doing work he was hired for, mishandled client funds and failed to keep required financial records, among other charges. The Virginia State Bar revoked his license in May.
On October 17, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals disbarred Lewis, citing the Virginia decision. According to yesterday's order, Lewis did not respond to a previous court order asking him why it shouldn't disbar him...
...Before the disciplinary proceedings, Lewis was a well-known member of the bar when it came to family law matters. The Washington Post reported he once said in an interview that he was the most expensive lawyer in the region, charging $850 per hour for his services. In 2004, the Virginia State Bar’s family law section gave him a lifetime achievement award.
Losing the license to practice law in the entire D.C. Metropolitan area qualifies as a very different lifetime achievement award. (Mike Frisch)
The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered an interim suspension of a former deputy prosecutor who pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge.
RTV6ABC has a report on the circumstances
David Wyser, 53, will plead guilty to federal bribery charges involving a 1991 murder case in which a woman was originally sentenced to 110 years in prison, but had her sentence dramatically reduced after her father donated thousands to Brizzi's and Wyser's campaigns.
Paula Willoughby was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot to kill her husband, Darrell Willoughby, after prosecutors said she and her lover, Douglas Steuber, paid a man $700 to kill Darrell Willoughby.
Paula Willoughby was sentenced to 110 years in prison, and, on appeal, the Indiana Supreme Court reduced her sentence to 70 years.
In June 2009, the sentence was modified to 40 years, a move agreed to by Brizzi's office, and Paula Willoughby was released in July 2009 for time served.
But from 2006 to 2008, prior to the sentence modification, Willoughby's father, Harrison Epperly, donated $29,000 to the Brizzi campaign and gave $2,500 to Wyser's failed campaign for Hamilton County prosecutor, records show.
Jenny Lukemeyer, who was Paula Willoughby's attorney at the time, also held a fundraiser for Wyser at her home that raised $2,500.
Indiana Lawyer had this report. (Mike Frisch)
A Louisiana Hearing Board has recommended that ethics charges against the spokesperson of the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office be dismissed.
At issue were comments in the wake of a not guilty verdict issued by a judge in a high-profile public corruption case.
The spokesperson commented shortly thereafter to a Times-Picayune reporter:
District Attorney Cannizzaro has fought to eliminate corruption, and unfortunately [Judge] Arthur Hunter thwarted our efforts today.
The bar complainant: Judge Arthur Hunter.
Both parties presented credible witnesses who appeared sincere in their beliefs that the statement either was, or was not, intended as a personal criticism of Judge Hunter. The significance of the statement made by the Respondent is something about which reasonable persons could disagree, however, it is the burden of the [Office of Disciplinary Counsel] to prove a violation by clear and convincing evidence. In this case, it is the opinion of the committee that ODC has not met its burden.
The committee found that the hasty comment "is not condoned" but that it was not knowingly or recklessly false. (Mike Frisch)
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has issued an opinion in a divorce case involving two graduates of Yale Law School.
Both took positions with "prestigious law firms" upon their 1988 graduation. The wife stopped working after pregnancy complications and the birth of twin boys. She was making $120,000 when she stopped working.
The husband by 2010 was earning over $800.,000 per year, which helped fund a lifestyle most of us can only dream about.
It came at a price
The price of Husband’s salary was as much as 2,700 hours of billable work per year, and it apparently put a strain on the parties’ relationship that slowly drove them to minor violence against each other and, in time, completely apart. By 2009, the parties were sleeping in separate parts of the house, and after attempts at counseling failed, the parties abruptly separated on July 29, 2010.
The court noted that the billables trasnslate into seven billed hours every day of the year.
The court affirmed the trial court, rejecting the appeal arguments of both spouses. (Mike Frisch)