Thursday, April 1, 2010

Three Documents

The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended a partially-stayed two year suspension for two attorneys in connection with their joint representation of a father accused by his daughter of a sex crime. The bar complaint had been filed by the prosecutor. The board affirmed the hearing committee's conclusions that had found violations of most of the charged rules but rejected a proposed six-month suspension in favor of more severe discipline:

...the record in this case shows that Respondents presented three documents to the alleged victim of a sex crime. The alleged perpetrator of the crime, the victim's father, was Respondents' client. One document, an affidavit requesting dismissal of criminal charges against Respondents' client, undisputably is proper in and of itself. A similar form of affidavit is in use by the D.A.'s office to memorialize an alleged victim's desire to have charges dismissed.

However, another document Respondents employed was also an affidavit. This second affidavit recited the alleged victim's desire to have the "no contact" order that Respondents believed the court had directed to their client be "lifted for the period necessary for us to communicate..." The court issuing such an order was the only entity properly empowered to lift it. [One] Repondent...directed [the victim] to meet immediately with his client, as his [co-Respondent counsel] had arranged. Although later it was determined that no "no contact" order was imposed, Respondents essentially took the position that if there were a court order in place, they would break it.

The third document Respondents employed was styled a "Confidentiality Agreement." Although [the victim] had been subpoened to testify at trial, and ws therefore under a legal obligation to comply, under the plain language of the "Confidentiality Agreement" she would face the penalty of "liquidated damages" and "attorneys' fees" if she testified. By employing the "Confidentiality Agreement" as they did, Respondents indicated that the civil sanctions in their "Agreement" trumped the obligation she already owed to the district court to testify at trial. Respondents therefore again violated their duties to the legal system.

The board considered the victim's vulnerability and the coercive behavior of the attorneys in proposing a two-year suspension, with all but a year and a day deferred, and one year of probation for both. (Mike Frisch)

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