Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Burden Of Bar Dues

An Arizona Hearing Officer has recommended that an attorney suspended for non-disciplinary reasons be reinstated. The attorney's story, which contains no hint of unethical behavior, tells us something about the difficulties presented by bar admission in multiple state jurisdictions.

The attorney attended Vermont Law School. He took and passed the Vermont Bar exam and was admitted in 1995. He took and passed the New Hampshire Bar and was admitted there the following year. In 1998, he took and passed the Arizona Bar, because he thought he might relocate to Arizona for family reasons. He sought employment in Arizona but got no offers. He did not complete the Arizona admission process at that time.

He moved to Texas in 2000 to accept employment but intended to return to the northeast. In 2003, he realized that he might forfeit his opportunity to become admitted in Arizona. He was sworn in by a local judge in Texas on March 14, 2003 and paid his Arizona Bar dues. By the time the dues had to be paid for the following year, he "did not foresee himself living or practicing in Arizona at any time in the foreseeable future." He felt that it "made little sense" to pay dues in three jurisdictions and "decided to sever his ties with the State Bar of Arizona." He had never practiced in Arizona and was in good standing in his other jurisdictions.

Because he waited more than two years to reactivate his Arizona license, a reinstatement proceeding was required. The Arizona Bar supported the petition for reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)

May 11, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Breaking News

The Indiana Supreme Court has announced that Judge G. Michael Witte has been named Executive Secretary to the Disciplinary Commission. The court described the experience of Judge Witte:

The majority of Judge Witte’s career was spent serving the Dearborn Superior Court.  He was elected to the bench in 1985 and served through 2008. He was the first Asian-American to serve as judge in the state of Indiana.  In March 2009, the Supreme Court appointed him to serve as temporary judge of Wayne Superior Court 1.  He currently serves as a Senior Judge and dedicates time to national professional associations. 

Judge Witte is the chair-elect of the American Bar Association Judicial Division and will become chair of the Division in August.  He is an Indiana University School of Law- Indianapolis graduate and a nationally recognized speaker in the field of diversity.  He served as a panelist for the American Bar Association program “Achieving a Diverse Judiciary and Its Impact on Public Confidence in the Judicial System.”  He also spoke at Harvard Law School for the American Bar Association program “Obtaining and Retaining a Diverse Judiciary.”  He served on the Indiana Commission on Courts from 2005-2007 and was named the 2008 Distinguished Asian Alumni by the Indiana University Asian Alumni Association.

The long-time Disciplinary Commission Executive Secretary, Donald Lundberg, retired from the position in December 2009.  The nine-member Commission, which includes both lawyers and citizen members, immediately began working to find an appropriate candidate to fill the role of Executive Secretary.  The Commission chose to have the entire body play a role in the search, rather than appoint a sub-committee dedicated to the mission. 

The Commission received 24 applications and began vetting potential candidates. In February, the Commission reviewed the applications submitted.  In March, discussion on the applications continued.  The Commission selected approximately ten candidates to interview and the process of meeting with those ten candidates began in April.  In May, the Commission selected Judge Witte as the Executive Secretary and the Indiana Supreme Court approved his appointment. 

Mr. Witte is expected to begin working in mid-June.  As Disciplinary Commission Executive Secretary he will work with agency staff and the nine-member Commission to ensure members of the Indiana bar uphold the Rules of Professional Conduct.  He will lead the agency that investigates and prosecutes cases of alleged attorney misconduct.  The Indiana Supreme Court has final authority over all attorney discipline cases.

Best wishes to Judge Witte in his new assignment. (Mike Frisch)

May 10, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Serious And Serial"

The Indiana Supreme Court imposed a one-year suspension without automatic reinstatement of an attorney convicted of a second alcohol-related driving offense.The first offense took place in March 2003 and led to a stayed six-month suspension with 12 months of probation monitored by the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. Chief Justice Shepard dissented and believed that one year of supervision was inadequate.

Chief Justice Shepard's views were vindicated by a January 2008 arrest and conviction that December. The attorney was suspended on a interim basis. Here, "[t]he suspension the Court would impose for [his] serious and serial misconduct may have been longer had this matter been submitted without a [disciplinary] agreement...If reinstatement is sought, it would likely be granted only with the involvement of and monitoring by the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. " (Mike Frisch) 

May 10, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Contract Attorney Disbarred

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has accepted the consent to disbarment of an attorney who was placed on inactive status in September 2008.

Appended to the court's order are two petitions charging ethical misconduct. One charges the respondent with billing fraud while employed by HIRECounsel assigned to perform legal work for Pepper Hamilton LLP. It is alleged that the respondent billed almost $80,000 for services that were not performed. The petition also charges that he mishandled a client's case.

The second petition relates to a criminal matter in which the respondent had been charged with offenses that included attempted murder. The attempted murder charge was dismissed at a preliminary proceeding and the respondent later pled to misdemeanor simple assault charges. (Mike Frisch)

May 10, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Breaking News

No, this blog does not have an inside track on the next nomination to the United States Supreme Court. Nonetheless, reliable sources have informed me that Glenn Grossman has been selected as Maryland Bar Counsel.

Glenn follows Mel Hirshman, who is retiring after over twenty five years of dedicated service to the legal profession both in Maryland and around the country. Mel serves on the editorial board of the Lawyers' Manual of Professional Conduct and is a former President (and longtime stalwart) of the National Organization of Bar Counsel.

Glenn has long served as Deputy Bar Counsel and will maintain the high professional standards of the Maryland Bar Counsel. I have had the pleasure of working with Glenn for many years and am gratified that his hard work and professionalism has been recognized by his elevation.

Mel has been a friend and mentor to me as well as countless others. Best wishes to him go along with my admiration for him as a lawyer and a person. (Mike Frisch)

May 10, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)