Monday, September 21, 2009

Censure Proposed For Conditional Admission Violation

An attorney was conditionally admitted to practice in Arizona in September of 2008. The conditions required her to abstain from alcohol. Prior to admission, the attorney had a 2006 DUI conviction and a juvenile record for letting underage people drink alcohol in her house.

The attorney admitted that she had violated the abstinence requirement within six weeks of her first alcohol/drug test. She had delivered a baby by C-section, which had delayed the testing program. As described by a hearing officer:

Respondent explained why she drank alcohol on December 10, 2008. She was attending a young mother's book club when she became emotional about the stress she felt from trying to parent her newborn. She was overwhelmed by trying to care for her child while maintaining her new legal career. When she began crying at the book club about her frustrations, other club members suggested she relax by drinking a glass of wine. Her mistake of course was having the glass of wine. However, her violations should be understood in context.

The hearing officer recommends public censure and probation.

I have mixed feelings about the use of conditional bar admission. One one hand, it does provide a vehicle to admit those who in the past might not have secured bar admission. On the other, there is a view that an applicant either is or is not fit.

A period of time (here it was 18 months) of some form of monitoring may serve the public interest. Here, a single DUI and a juvenile incident does not strike me as a legitimate basis to require total abstinence from alcohol as a continuing condition of admission. The attorney was admitted subject to an agreement to participate in the bar's treatment program which promptly reported a positive test for alcohol.

While I might favor a conditional admission that required no alcohol-related convictions for a period of time or other reasonable conditions, I fear that this attorney is a victim of the bar's sobriety police. She has complied with the terms of the conditional admission from January to August 2009. (Mike Frisch)


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