August 20, 2008
Anger As Mitigation
An Arizona lawyer was hired as the executive director of a nonprofit corporation, leaving his employment as an assistant county attorney. He represented the nonprofit in a dispute with a general contractor and identified himself as "chief counsel" as well as executive director. When a participating member of the nonprofit expressed concern that there was a conflict in his multiple roles, his employment contract was not renewed. He then failed to maintain the nonprofit's client confidences and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation
A hearing officer approved an agreement for a censure and one year of probation. The report notes that the nonprofit had shifting positions as to whether the accused was ever acting as its lawyer. The hearing officer found that the accused had obligations both as a lawyer and as the executive director.
One interesting issue raised was whether the lawyer's anger should be treated as a mitigating factor: "For anger to be substantial enough to preclude the attorney from knowing or understanding what he was doing, it would have to be substantial enough to the point that disability proceedings or interim suspension would be appropriate...anger to a lesser degree could be probative, along with other circumstantial clues, as to the attorney's actual knowledge and intent in committing the misconduct." (Mike Frisch)
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