Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pride Before The Fall

An Arizona Hearing Officer (the always insightful H. Jeffrey Coker) has recommended a censure and probation of a young criminal defense who had run afoul of disciplinary authorities early in his career. The attorney was admitted in 2000.

Hearing Officer Coker found that the attorney engaged in misconduct in one of three charged matters. Each involved an appointment from the Maricopa Office of Court Appointed Counsel ("OCAC)"

In the Moore case, no ethical misconduct was found in the representation although an innocent client had been convicted of armed robbery.

The attorney learned information about an associate of his client known as "Crazy Dave." He did not pursue the information out of concern that it would lead to the discovery of other crimes committed by Moore and Crazy Dave together. Moore was convicted but eventually secured relief for ineffective assistance of counsel when it was proven that Crazy Dave had done the crime. The hearing officer considered the question a close one but found insufficent evidence of an ethical violation.

Most interesting is the sanction discussion:

The impression that the Respondent conveyed during the course of the three-day hearing in this matter is that of a young man who started out his practice in the year 2000 with an oversized ego and rampant ambition to make a name for himself trying cases. Once [he] got onto the conflict attorney appointment list he apparently never said no to a case and took on far more than he could legitimately handle. Both his ego and his pride dictated that his job was to take everything that OCAC sent him, then focusing on the outcome rather than the process of how he got there.

This attitude and practice eventually caught up with him in 2004 and 2005, and the hard reality of client relations and the process of the practice of law caused him to step back and take a look at himself. According to the Respondent as well as those attorneys with whom he practices, he has implemented changes necessary to avoid problems in the future. However, that is not the entire story...

[Discussion of Moore case, which took place in 2008]

...What concerns this Hearing Officer is the degree to which Respondent appreciates that the practice of law is not just about how many cases he can win. The practice of law is a service profession where we serve not only our clients, but a higher cause of justice...The fear that this Hearing Officer has is that, unless [he] realizes that his priority must be that he serves his profession and his client's needs first and foremost and that his statistics count for little, he will not make the necessary shift in his priorities and will come back to the disciplinary process in the future. It is hoped that Respondent has matured enough to make these changes.

The attorney had twice been placed on diversion for ethical issues similar to those presented here. The lapses took place in the 2004-05 period. (Mike Frisch)

 

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