Sunday, May 27, 2007
The Delaware Supreme Court disbarred an attorney who had never been admitted to practice in Delaware. The attorney had been disbarred in Ohio, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia in the wake of a federal criminal conviction for bribing an immigration official. After reinstatement in Pennsylvania, the attorney developed an active practice out of a home in Delaware that resulted in an agreed cease and desist order. Disbarment was imposed as a result of violations of that order. The court rejected the accused lawyer's reliance on the Pennsylvania license as justification for violation of rules relating to unauthorized practice. The court further found that disbarment was an appropriate sanction even though the attorney never had been admitted in Delaware.
The case also contains a useful discussion of the lawyer's contention that the conduct was proper due to the "safe harbor" provisions of Rule 8.5(b). The court found that accused had given advice to Delaware clients concerning Delaware cases and had no basis to claim that Pennsylvania's ethics rules somehow legitimized the conduct. The court also rejected the contention that contempt was the sole remedy for violation of the cease and desist order. (Mike Frisch)