Sunday, January 18, 2009

Quality Of Investigation Questioned

An attorney was appointed to defend a criminal case in which the client was charged with second degree murder. He secured a hung jury at the first trial and a lesser conviction for manslaughter at the second trial. The client was sentenced the 30 years hard labor. The client made two attempts to secure habeas corpus relief without success. The client thereafter filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC"), alleging that the attorney had labored under an undisclosed conflict of interest in that the lawyer grew up with the victim and that the lawyer's father had previously been in law partnership with the victim's father. The complainant alleged further that the lawyer had sought out the court appointment. The lawyer responded to the complaint by calling the allegations "ridiculous." The complaint was dismissed by ODC and a hearing panel affirmed the dismissal determination.

The Louisiana Supreme Court dismissed the dissatisfied complainant's request for review. Notably, two justices disagreed with the summary dismissal. In opinions linked here and here, the justices take the ODC to task for what is characterized as an inadequate investigation: Justice Traylor asserts that "no true investigation of the allegations was made." According to the dissents, no sworn statements were taken from the father or the son; nor was there any independent investigation beyond the accused lawyer's denial. Justice Johnson would direct the appointment of a special disciplinary counsel to conduct an appropriate investigation.

In an unrelated matter, the court conditionally admitted a bar applicant with the condition that she demonstrate a good faith effort to satisfy financial obligations on a quarterly basis for two years. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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Trustworthy criminal defense attorneys are hard to come by, searching for one can be time consuming and difficult, this leads to all sorts of bad decisions.

Posted by: JT | Jan 19, 2009 1:21:43 PM

The problem is, how much in the way of resources does ODC have? It's not as if this is the end of this factual allegation: the inmate can file a post-conviction relief application claiming his lawyer had a conflict. He will be entitled to discovery on the factual nature of his claims. If that fails, he can file habeas, where he will again have access to discovery. If it turns out that his lawyer lied about these facts, the consequences will be severe-- much worse, for example, than if the facts alleged by the inmate were true (which only questionably would state a "conflict" in any event). As we know, lying about what happened is worse than fessing up.

I don't see how they can reasonably be expected to hire an investigator and go do interviews for every absurd claim that comes along.

Posted by: JJ | Jan 19, 2009 10:05:50 PM

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