Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Well Over The Line

Also from the September 2008 online edition of the California Bar Journal:

In [a] drunk driving case, Kopp represented a defendant, Christopher Jauregui, who was on probation in a felony robbery case. Jauregui was arrested for driving under the influence, but provided the name and birth date of a passenger, Cesar Casteneda, who was a longtime friend. Casteneda’s license subsequently was suspended. Jauregui was charged, under Casteneda’s name, with three misdemeanor driving under the influence counts.

Neither the court nor Jauregui’s probation officer were aware that the charges were filed under Casteneda’s name.

At a meeting with both men, Kopp advised them that if the case could be delayed a year, until the statute of limitations expired, he would then inform the district attorney that it was filed against the wrong person. At that time, he believed, the case against Casteneda would be dismissed and he thought it likely that the DA would not pursue the charges against Jauregui “assuming it was ever discovered that Jauregui was the actual person arrested,” according to the stipulation.

Kopp represented both men. Ultimately, after several appearances by Kopp and other attorneys in his firm, Geragos and Geragos, the court was informed that Casteneda was charged erroneously. Jauregui was charged with DUI and his case was referred to a new attorney.

At all times, Kopp was the lead attorney in the case and the other attorneys who appeared on his behalf took their instructions from him. However, according to the stipulation, Kopp would have testified that he discussed his strategy with Paul Geragos, the firm’s founding partner, and that Geragos approved.

Although Jauregui eventually pleaded no contest to one count of misdemeanor DUI, he and Casteneda were later charged with felony conspiracy to obstruct justice. Jauregui also was charged with false personation and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, both felonies, and Casteneda was charged with one felony count of compounding a non-capital felony. Both men pleaded no contest to misdemeanor obstruction of justice.

This fact pattern might make for a good issue-spotting professional responsibility exam question. Criminal charges were considered and not pursued against the attorney. He was placed on probation for two years with a non-probated 30 day suspension.

Here is a link to the web page of the lawyer and his firm. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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