Sunday, January 18, 2009
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)