Monday, December 27, 2010
The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed findings of failure to supervise against the managing partner of a high volume "consumer law firm" but reduced the proposed sanction from six months and a day to six months. As a result, the attorney is automatically reinstated after the period of suspension. The court imposed detailed probationary conditions when the attorney resumes practice.
The firm employed 250 people including 38 attorneys. The practice areas were criminal defense, bankruptcy and personal injury matters. The disciplined attorney did not represent clients but rather was responsible for firm management. One of the issues was severe case overload. Attorneys in the bankruptcy division carried 500 cases. One testified that her assigned caseload was 540 when she started with the firm. The attorney had a record of prior discipline for similar misconduct.
The court held that the Hearing Officer applied the appropriate standard and did not impose vicarious liability for the acts of subordinate attorneys. The attorney is precluded from sharing in profits or holding himself out as an attorney during the period of suspension.
A concurring and dissenting opinion would impose the six months and a day recommended by the Disciplinary Commission. (Mike Frisch)