March 19, 2010
The Iowa Supreme Court has imposed a public reprimand of an attorney in connection with his representation of a husband and wife charged with criminal violations that related to purchasing and reselling game fish harvested in Iowa in their grocery store. Both clients had emigrated from Thailand and had some difficult understanding English. The clients were very concerned about any publicity that would result from a conviction. The attorney arranged a guilty plea. Despite his efforts to limit the publicity, the conviction was reported in the media. The clients were angered, fired the attorney, and filed a bar complaint. The convictions were vacated based on findings of ineffective assistance of counsel.
The court concluded that the evidence did not clearly establish that the attorney had testified falsely at the post-conviction hearing. There was no transcript of the original guilty plea. At most, the attorney testified inaccurately about events that had taken place several years in the past. The court noted the distinction between a faulty memory and a knowing falsehood. The court concluded that the primary ethical lapses were a result of the failure to have an interpreter at the plea. The court noted that the attorney had no prior discipline and a record of good works. (Mike Frisch)
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