Friday, January 23, 2009

Disagreement Over Sanction

An attorney was the subject of bar proceedings rooted in three instances of driving while intoxicated in 2001 and 2002. In the second incident, he drove to the residence of his ex-wife's boyfriend while intoxicated. He smashed out the vehicle windows of the boyfriend's car with a shovel and fled in his own automobile. The police were able to stop him after a chase. He refused to exit the vehicle despite police commands and was pulled out of the car at gunpoint. His minor child was in the front passenger seat. The third incident involved him broadsiding another car while driving his gold BMW. He fabricated a claim that a stripper from the Gold Club was driving the car. He then appeared at the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and refused to answer questions, citing the Fifth Amendment and his right to privacy.

The Louisiana Disciplinary Board has recommended that the attorney be disbarred: "this case is not strictly contained to criminal acts...the Board views [his] dishonestry and obstruction during this disciplinary proceeding to be a central focus of this case and warrants an upward deviation  from the baseline sanction of suspension to disbarment. Respondent has obstructed this proceeding by refusing to answer routine questions under the guise of a constitutional privilege." The Board further found he had refused to adnit liability for the collision despite overwhelming evidence of guilt .

A dissent favored a long suspension, noting that the issues were rooted in conduct outside the practice of law and had consulted with the bar's assistance program:"the evidence shows that [he] has abused alcohol in times of stress, for which he has sought treatment and counseling. The too harsh. A lenghty suspension, with the safeguards of the reinstatement process, is more appropriate as the sanction in this matter." (MIke Frisch)

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