August 5, 2009
An interesting hearing committee report from Louisiana recommends that two lawyers be suspended for six months, all deferred, and that they attend a bar sponsored ethics seminar. The two lawyers shared office space and had jointly represented a criminal defendant charged with incestuous rape of his minor daughter. After one of the attorneys had "aggressively" cross examined the victim at a motions hearing, he met with the victim and had her execute three affidavits. The second lawyer had the victim sign the affidavits and notarized them himself. One affidavit purported to waive a no-contact order imposed on the defendant, the second asked that the charges be dismissed, and the third imposed a condition of confidentiality concerning the meeting.
Thereafter, the victim became uncooperative with the criminal prosecution. When subpoened to the trial, she contacted one of the accused lawyers. He arranged to have a third attorney advise her about her rights regarding testimony. She then began to cooperate and the defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
The committee concluded:
...by creating the false impression in the mind of [the victim] that she was legally barred from ever discussing the meeting on penalty of an injunction and other "liquidated damages" and thereby causing a previously cooperative witness to become fearful and unwilling to cooperate with the prosecution, as she had previously done, [the accused attorneys] have violated Rule 3.4(a) and (f), Rule 4.1, Rule 4.3 and Rule 8.4(a), (c) and (d).
A greater sanction was not proposed because there was a lack of proof that the meeting violated a court order and "it cannot be said that the meeting itself was illegal or improper per se." (Mike Frisch)
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