Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Noting a significant distinction between bar proceedings based on a criminal conviction and those involving original charges, the California State Bar Court held that a dismissal based solely on the State Bar's alleged failure to notify an attorney "of its factual and legal contentions about the evidence it would rely on" was error. The attorney had been convicted in Ohio of assault "after [he] became verbally abusive to federal Transportation Security Administration employees who were screening [him] at the airport as a ticketed passenger." The dismissal had been entered by the hearing judge after the attorney had defaulted. The opinion aptly notes that "had [he] replied instead of defaulting, he could have sought to discover the State Bar's contentions.."
Of course, this decision is manifestly correct. Nothing proves the failure of self-regulation as much as a dismissal on a technicality without reaching the merits of a misconduct charge. (Mike Frisch)