Thursday, November 19, 2009
An Arizona hearing officer has rejected as "too severe" proposed stipulated discipline of a suspension for six months and one day and recommended public censure and probation in a disciplinary matter involving two charges. One of the matters involved a trust account overdraft caused by bank error. The error apparently involved a wire transfer fraud on the account. The lawyer self-reported the problem to the State Bar.
The second matter related to the attorney's dealings with a client involved in marijuana distribution. The lawyer was advising the client and getting client referrals in drug cases. His involvement led to a guilty plea to an "undesignated" felony of facilitation of money laundering in the second degree. The matter was designated as a misdemeanor after the unsupervised probation was terminated without incident.
The hearing officer relied on a number of favorable letters, including one from a federal magistrate and another from a retired judge. The bar proceedings involved matters that had taken place five years ago. The attorney had been subject to adverse publicity and significant expense in defending the criminal case (it is noted that he had twice rejected offers of diversion in the criminal matter on advice of counsel. In sum, the hearing officer appears to have strongly believed that the lawyer had suffered enough for his misconduct and is no threat to the public. (Mike Frisch)