Friday, January 2, 2009

The Final Act

The California Bar Journal summarizes a recent disbarment case that began as a reciprocal probation order from Washington State:

The disbarment is the final act in a relatively minor disciplinary history   that began in 1996 when Esau failed to return a $1,700 advance fee to a client   who fired him. The client sued and obtained a judgment for $1,751 that Esau   paid. However, the matter went to the Washington bar’s disciplinary board,   which ordered that Esau be publicly reprimanded.

As a result, the California bar filed charges against Esau that resulted in   a private reproval and probation.

Esau violated his probation conditions, beginning an escalation of the discipline   imposed on him. The reproval period was extended by one year, Esau received   a six-month stayed suspension and two years’ probation, his probation   was revoked and he received a six-month actual suspension. The State Bar ultimately   sought disbarment as a result of Esau’s history of probation violations.

“This matter illustrates the serious consequences of an attorney’s   extended inattention to State Bar disciplinary proceedings and his repeated   disregard of Supreme Court orders,” wrote review Judge Judith Epstein   for a three-judge panel.

The panel rejected a hearing judge’s finding that Esau’s alcoholism   played a part in his misconduct and it did not give great weight to the three   character witnesses who testified on his behalf.

Although Epstein acknowledged that the initial misconduct did not result in   serious discipline, nor were any clients harmed, she wrote, “We could   find no case imposing a sanction less than disbarment for an attorney who repeatedly   has been called to account in disciplinary proceedings for violating conditions   of probation, while at the same time violating court orders requiring compliance   with rule 9.20.”

Note that the sanction was a public reprimand (apparently without a probation component ) and that California nonetheless initiated its own proceeding based on the Washington misconduct, imposed probation and here disbars for violation of the probation conditions. (Mike Frisch)

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So should Washington now impose reciprocal discipline based upon the disbarment? Or was California's disbarment still reciprocal discipline based upon Washington's actions? Where does the circle begin and end?


Posted by: FixedWing | Jan 2, 2009 11:04:47 AM

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