October 6, 2008
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that a trial court had properly excluded defense counsel from representation of his client. Although the court acknowledged the Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice, a number of issues arose during the representation that warranted disqualification. First, the attorney had interviewed the co-defendant outside of the presence of co-defendant's counsel. The trial court found that lawyer was not aware that the person had an attorney, but ordered that an ethical screen put in place whereby the lawyer who had conducted the interview could not consult with the client's co-counsel concerning discussions with the co-defendant. The co-defendant sought but was denied a separate trial.
Then, the prosecutor advised the court that the same lawyer had "coached" a State's witness. The court concluded that the lawyer had put himself in the position of possible witness and ordered that he nor sit at trial table. The lawyer was still permitted to discuss the case (except for the co-defendant aspect) with co-counsel.
The court here held that the trial court had acted "within its discretion in determining that appellant's right to choice of counsel was outweighed by the countervailing interests of fairness, maintaining ethical standards, and avoiding conflicts of interest." (Mike Frisch)
An associate of a Georgia law firm with three years experience was "assigned to conduct discovery for a products liability case, despite having very little experience in the area." He failed to forward discovery requests to the client and did not respond to those requests, failed to inform the partner on the case and made misreprestations to the court. Sanctions were imposed against the client as a result although the case itself was settled.
He was under pressure to add billable hours while studying for the South Carolina bar exam, suffered panic attacks and "constantly felt as if he were having a heart attack." He resigned from the firm and took a three-month sabbatical from practice. He sought treatment, "is remorseful, and avers that it will not happen again." The Georgia Supreme Court rejected the bar's proposed suspension and imposed a public reprimand. (Mike Frisch)
The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the denial of bar admission of its Board to Determine Fitness of Bar Applicants, concluding that the applicant had not met his burden of proof of rehabilitation in light of his criminal record.
Although [he] has made some admirable efforts to rehabilitate his life since he was convicted of certain crimes in 1986, the record also shows that he misrepresented the circumstances of the crime when he was in prison in order to obtain early release, that he misrepresented the circumstances of the crime when he applied for college in 1993, and that he again misrepresented the circumstances of the crime when he first applied for certification of fitness to practice law.
Thus, the court concluded that he had not carried his burden of proof that he has "fully and completely rehabilitated himself..." (Mike Frisch)
Reinstatement With Probation Proposed
An attorney admitted in Arizona in 1990 was suspended for non-payment of dues in 2003. He had decided to cease practice after losing his eyesight due to scarring of the corneas. His eyesight began to improve in 2006 and a 2007 cornea transplant had restored 20-40 eyesight in his surgical eye. He then sought reinstatement and paid his back dues.
At an evidentiary hearing, a number of documents reflecting domestic violence -- including a guilty plea to criminal trespass and damage-- were placed into the record. There were also civil suits involving both a former girlfriend and a neighbor. The hearing officer concluded that the "several civil and criminal matters...have now been fully resolved to the satisfaction of the hearing officer" and recommended reinstatement with one year of monitored probation. (Mike Frisch)