Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Overworked Public Defender Sanctioned

A part-time public defender for three South Carolina counties had an annual caseload of over 700 cases. He was the subject of eight complaints and defaulted on the ensuing bar charges. Thus, the hearing was limited to a determination of appropriate discipline. Over the objection of disciplinary counsel, the attorney was permitted to present evidence through a witness that some of the underlying criminal matters were favorably resolved. The South Carolina Supreme Court held that this evidence was improperly admitted. Noting that it was appropriate to give "some consideration to respondent's heavy caseload and the systemic problems with the public defender system" (quoting the sub-panel), the court concluded:

"We agree with the parties that a nine-month suspension, with participation in a law office management program and payment of costs, is the appropriate sanction for respondent.  We caution the Commission in the future to carefully weigh the continuance decision when, as in the present case, the parties present surprise evidence without prior notice to the obvious disadvantage of the other party."  (Mike Frisch)


Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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