Thursday, July 17, 2008
An Arizona attorney found in violation of ethics rules in 2004 went on inactive status in 2005. The attorney was asked to but declined to sign a probation contract on return to active status and refused to sign a consent form providing access to medical treatment records, although one report was received indicating that the attorney was "improving." A probation violation hearing was held, at which the attorney refused to testify on advice of counsel.
The hearing officer's report recommended that the attorney be subject to a three-month suspension: "[the attorney's] lack of respect for the hearing conducted...is fortified by her unwillingness to testify, her demeanor at the hearing, and her cynical approach and attitude to this hearing." The recommendation provided for an increase of the suspension to six months and a day if the attorney continued her non-compliance with probation conditions.
The Disciplinary Commission recently recommended the longer suspension. Noting the attorney's claim of disability based on bipolar disorder, the commission concludes that the attorney "should be required to participate in formal reinstatement proceedings and provide comprehensive medical records, including an independent medical examination, to prove...rehabilitation and fitness to practice."
The matter now proceeds to the Arizona Supreme Court for final action. (Mike Frisch)