Monday, May 21, 2007

Decision Void

The Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals remanded a case that merits some scrutiny. The attorney had been charged with violations in three client-related matters. The grievance commission panel consisted of four lawyers and two public members. It appears that a determination was made, come hell or high water, to finish in a day. After the bar had presented its case, the accused attorney sought a continuance, which was opposed by bar counsel, in order to make child care arrangements when the case resumed in the evening. The panel reconvened, but had lost an attorney and public members (and a quorum) by 8 pm. The accused again sought a continuance at around 11:45 pm (including a plea for 15 minutes to have another lawyer show up to help him plead mitigation). The bar counsel opposed giving him the 15 minutes! The grievance panel found misconduct and suspended the attorney for 18 months followed by 42 months probation.

The board held that the loss of a quorum rendered the disciplinary decision void and sent the case back for a new (and hopefully more sensibly conducted) hearing. I can only wonder what was really going on in this case, but it surely delayed resolution of the charges and ill-served the interests of both the lawyer and the public. (Mike Frisch)

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