Monday, September 14, 2009

No Interim Suspension On Email Charges

The Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request for an interim suspension of an attorney. WDSU.com reported last month:

[The attorney] is at the center of one of the e-mail controversies at City Hall. She was brought before the disciplinary committee to determine whether or not she acted unethically in her handling of City Council e-mails.

[The attorney] requested the e-mails of four City Council members back in December. Sanitation Director Veronica White gave the e-mails to Washington without going through the city attorney's office, which is the normal process.

Even though the [Attorney Disciplinary] board elected not to discipline [the attorney], the case still will be reviewed by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which has the final say.

Additional details may be found in this post from NOLA.com:

New Orleans lawyer Tracie Washington defended herself Thursday against a claim that she breached a professional conduct rule in connection with her handling of thousands of e-mail messages sent and received by City Council members.

City Councilwoman Stacy Head also testified in the closed-door hearing of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board in Metairie, said Washington's attorney, Clarence Roby.

Board members within 10 days must make a recommendation to the state Supreme Court about whether to temporarily suspend Washington's law license, drop the case or pursue other action. The judgment may not be known for months.

No recommendation about Washington's professional status was made today. "Tracie's license has not been suspended," Roby said.

Roby said Washington is alleged to have broken Rule 4.4(b) of the of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which states that a lawyer who receives a document that "appears to be subject to the attorney-client privilege or otherwise confidential ... shall refrain from examining the writing, promptly notify the sending lawyer, and return the writing."

At a council meeting this afternoon, Head refused to discuss today's hearing.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said. "Whether I was there or not there is not something I'm supposed to talk about under my personal ethics obligations."

The e-mail controversy stems from a public records request made by Washington -- head of the Louisiana Justice Institute -- last December asking for copies of all e-mails sent and received by four City Council members.

Washington received the e-mails from the city's Sanitation Director Veronica White, not from the city attorney's office, which typically screens public records requests.

Washington posted on her Web site some of the e-mail messages written by Councilwoman Stacy Head and others.

The question before the legal disciplinary panel is whether Washington sidestepped the ethics of her profession in how she handled the messages.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal has agreed with Washington's contention that she had a First Amendment right to post the documents. The Louisiana Supreme Court immediately stayed that decision and later declined to hear the case on the merits.

The high court's actions, however, became largely moot when some Council members voluntarily released edited versions of the documents.

 (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2009/09/the-louisiana-supreme-court-denied-a-request-for-an-interim-sudpension-of-an-attorney-wdsucom-reported-last-month----the.html

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