Tuesday, April 1, 2008
An attorney was convicted on his guilty plea to misdemeanor insurance fraud and suspended from practice for six months in New York as a result of the conviction. New York had held a hearing that explored the circumstances of the underlying offense prior to imposing discipline. The attorney is now reinstated in New York. New Jersey and Florida promptly imposed reciprocal discipline without the need of reinventing the New York wheel.
Unfortunately, the attorney also was admitted in the District of Columbia. There, over the objection of Bar Counsel, the Board on Professional Responsibility ordered a hearing to determine whether the crime involved moral turpitude warranting disbarment. Bar Counsel put into evidence the entire New York record and recommended reciprocal discipline of six months. The Board now agrees with that proposal, but attacks Bar Counsel for not attempting to retry (or try, as it was a guilty plea) the criminal case. As is usual, substantial time and effort has now been expended reaching the conclusion that both Bar Counsel and the attorney had sought. Read the Board report and you will get a sense of the D.C. bar disciplinary system's penchant for turning straightforward matters into complex ones that take years to resolve.
As to the criticism of Bar Counsel, what fresh evidence that was overlooked in New York did the Board expect to be uncovered by D.C. Bar Counsel years after the fact? What facts do they think that New York failed to discover when it investigated and tried the matter years ago? What sensible use of resources is required to try to take up a cold trail when Bar Counsel has a subpoena power that extends 25 miles from the District of Columbia?
I have enough knowledge about the realities of D.C. bar discipline to understand how unfair and groundless the attacks on Bar Counsel are, mostly particularly those contained in the second concurring opinion. (Mike Frisch)