Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Heartless"

Goodman Advocacy, the web page of  former West Virginia Bar Counsel Sherri Goodman, has a section called Tales From The Crypt. One anecdote in particular caught my eye as capturing the essence of what motivates one to serve as a bar prosecutor. Done for the right reasons (and free of the influence of the organized bar), to me this is God's work. Sherri's story:

Heartless

A member of the Board of Governors once accused me of being heartless!  Those who know me will be as shocked as I was.  Who planted perennials and annuals in front of the State Bar Center several years in a row?  Who tried to get a bird unstuck from the State Bar's three story drain pipe?  Who spent a whole hour in an auditorium filled with alternatively sullen and smart alecky junior high school students on Law Day because some other coward backed out at the last moment?

What prompted this accusation was this:  At the Board of Governor's meeting during the State Bar's annual meeting, a resolution was proposed to memorialize all the lawyers who had died the preceding year.  This is a rather routine resolution that speaks in glowing terms of the deceaseds' contributions to the legal profession.  This particular year I noticed the name of a lawyer whose law license had been suspended and had never been reinstated before his death. Moreover, the lawyer had actually been disbarred many years before and had been reinstated in a controversial Supreme Court decision, only to get a suspension ten years after reinstatement.

I merely brought it to the attention of the Board that this deceased lawyer had not been entitled to practice law at the time of his death and wondered whether he should be included with those other lawyers who justly deserved to be remembered. This sparked some debate which was concluded with one member saying, "The man is dead.  SOME of us have a heart, and this lawyer should not be removed from the resolution."

The lawyer's name was duly included in the resolution, and I found it ironic to learn later on that at the time of his death, he was under a criminal investigation for misappropriation of funds as an executor of an estate.  In cases like this, my heart was always with the clients, not the lawyers, however dead they may be.

Best holiday wishes to my disciplinary counsel friends around the country, who fight to uphold the integrity of our profession. (Mike Frisch)

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