Monday, June 9, 2008
The Arizona Supreme Court disbarred a former deputy county attorney with no prior disciplinary history and a reputation "as an ethical, professsional, and highly competent lawyer." The facts are set out in a hearing officer's report. The problems started when the attorney took her daughter to a pediatric ophthmologist and fell in love with the doctor. He was addicted to painkillers and she allowed him to use her name for prescriptions and kept some for her own use. When the DEA began investigating, she lied to them and tipped the doctor off to their interest in him. Criminal charges were filed against her, leading to a guilty plea. She also violated terms of her release that prohibited contact with the doctor and was charged with "DUI and Extreme DUI" after a traffic accident.
The hearing officer had found that the misconduct "occurred within the context of a personal, emotional and ill-fated relationship with [the doctor], and not when she engaged in the practice of law" and proposed a one-year suspension. A majority of the Disciplinary Commission had recommended disbarment, noting that the attorney had lied in the criminal case to avoid conviction, lied to the State Bar, and "counselled [the doctor] in the commission of a murder." While the conduct had taken place in her personal life, "it is undisputed that some of the Respondent's misconduct occurred when she was employed as a prosecutor. It is precisely because of Respondent's legal background, her understanding of the law and the position she held as a prosecutor, that if she is unable to distinguish between her personal and professional life and if her personal life has rendered her judgment impaired, then she is not fit to practice law." A commission dissent favored a three-year suspension. (Mike Frisch)