Monday, September 19, 2011
A District Of Columbia Hearing Committee has approved the negotiated sanction of a public censure in a matter in which the attorney had been appointed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Micgigan to serve as the monitor of two consent judgments in United States v. City of Detroit.
The consent reflects that "the Court interviewed Respondent to make sure she was conflict-free and that she understood the need to remain neutral and independent of the parties." She acted as monitor for six years.
The problem involved her "undisclosed and personal communications with then Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. In early 2004, Respondent had intimate contact with then Mayor Kilpatrick." The attorney resigned when confronted by the court with the information about the contacts.
The attorney agreed that her conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice.
As always, we will hold our breath and see if the consent passes muster with the D.C.Court of Appeals. The hearing committee concedes that there are no prior D.C. cases with comparable facts. The one case they chiefly rely on is from 1977 and clearly involves worse facts if you accept (as is stipulated) that the attorney did not alter any offical act because of the relationship.
Under the D.C. consent rule, the hearing committee report goes directly to the court. The court can adopt it or seek the views of the Board on Professional Responsibility.
If the court sends the proposed disposition to the board, I can state with a high degree of confidence that the board will have concerns. It always does.
The committee's report can be found at this link. The attorney is Sheryl L. Robinson Wood.
Former Mayor Kilpatrick's conduct resulted in five Michigan attorneys getting prosecuted for ethics violations. This is the first D.C. lawyer added to his list. When it comes to getting lawyers in ethical hot water, Mr. Kilpatrick may go down in history as the Richard Nixon of mayors.
The Detroit Free Press had this coverage. (Mike Frisch)