Friday, September 3, 2010

The Best Little in Palau

From the most recent online edition of the California Bar Journal:

[An attorney] was disbarred in Illinois in 2008 for money-laundering in Palau and engaging in dishonest conduct by giving false testimony in his wife’s criminal trial. His actions amounted to moral turpitude, and the California State Bar Court determined he violated the state’s professional conduct rules. He did not participate in any of the proceedings brought against him.

[The attorney], who was licensed in the Republic of Palau and worked as an attorney for the Senate Legal Counsel Office, married a woman who operated a restaurant that fronted as a prostitution business. She deposited some of the funds from the business in a joint account she held with [him].

She was charged with money-laundering and, during her trial, [he] falsely testified that the money in their account came from his salary, his family and wedding gifts. He knew the money was from prostitution.

After the wife’s trial, [the attorney] was given an opportunity to respond to allegations by the Attorney Disciplinary Tribunal of Palau that he was aware of his wife’s business. He did not respond and the charges — giving false testimony, knowingly receiving proceeds from his wife’s illegal business and attempting to conceal the nature of the money — were deemed admitted. The charges constituted moral turpitude and he also was accused of once thwarting a police sting of the business. [He] was disbarred in Palau.

(Mike Frisch)

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So what am I missing here? He did not participate in the Palau disciplinary proceeding so the charges were deemed admitted. But he was charged with money laundering and yet his wife, not he, had been charged with money laundering in the original criminal prosecution. Then he did not participate in Illinois and was again found guilty of the same charges, including money laundering. This was deemed moral turpitude. But what was the evidence? Did Illinois hold an evidentiary hearing? Or was this some sort of reciprocal discipline based upon the Palau discipline? Finally, California found that is actions amounted to moral turpitude. But what actions? Money laundering? Or failing to participate in a disciplinary proceeding? Again, did California conduct an evidentiary hearing? Or was this reciprocal discipline based upon the actions taken by Palau and/or Illinois? If the latter, then where is the proof that he engaged in moral turpitude?

It always amazes me what these bodies are able to come up with when the accused attorney does not participate. Effectively, we have the disciplinary equivalent of a criminal trial, and invariable conviction, in absentia. This stuff makes for great reading but there really isn’t a lot that one can take from it.

If I were to try to read between the lines, sounds to me like the Palau criminal prosecution of his wife failed and that he was probably the reason why. The disciplinary prosecution was probably pay-back for that. He likely refused to participate in the disciplinary proceeding for fear that it might precipitate a criminal perjury prosecution (which, glaringly, seems to not have occurred). Ditto for Illinois and California. Plus what was the likelihood of Illinois and California really sitting in judgment on the Palau proceeding? Once Palau had acted, the outcome would have almost been a foregone conclusion here in the States. So why bother?

Interesting case but all it leaves me with is questions and doubts.


Posted by: FixedWing | Sep 3, 2010 1:47:29 PM

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