June 21, 2011
Permanent Disbarment for Tax Offenses, False Statements
The web page of the Ohio Supreme Court reports:
The Supreme Court of Ohio has permanently revoked the license of [a] Cincinnati attorney...for professional misconduct based on his failure to file returns or pay federal, state and local income taxes owed by himself and his former wife from 2001 through 2006, and his false statements during a prior attorney discipline proceeding and in a sworn affidavit filed with the Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court indicating that those taxes had been paid.
In a 7-0 per curiam opinion released today, the Court affirmed findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that [the attorney's] conduct violated the state disciplinary rules that prohibit a lawyer from engaging in illegal conduct that reflects adversely on his honesty or trustworthiness; conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and conduct that reflects adversely on the attorney’s fitness to practice law.
In rejecting [his] objections that his violations should be subject to a less severe penalty than disbarment because they were limited to his own financial affairs and did not adversely affect his clients or the judicial system, the Court pointed out that he knowingly submitted a false affidavit in a court proceeding and gave false testimony in his previous disciplinary case that impaired this Court’s ability to determine the full scope of his misconduct and craft an appropriate sanction to protect the public.
The Court concurred with the disciplinary board’s conclusion that permanent disbarment was the appropriate sanction because [his] “pattern of lying and deceit strongly suggests that he lacks the ability of conform his behavior to the ethical standards incumbent upon attorneys in this state.”
The court described the circumstances, which involved a pattern of deception regarding his financial situation in order to try to save his foundering marriage. His wife, in reliance on his false statements and documents, left her position with a Cincinnatti law firm.
The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
June 20, 2011
The Judge Of Comedy
The New Mexico Supreme Court suspended a district court judge for 60 days without pay and ordered a $6,000 fine as a result of his "untimely recusal after initiating a romantic relationship with an assistant public defender who had cases before him and making dishonest statements from the bench concerning his reasons for recusing."
The judge had performed stand-up comedy and thought that the public defender "shared his interest in comedy and humor." He invited her to lunch and they "just clicked." He gave her a book entitled, "The One-Hour Orgasm" because he shared the same name with the author. He also gifted her a pair of purple latex gloves.
The following day, a Saturday, the assistant public defender called Judge S. and offered to cook a meal for him at his house. Judge S. suggested that they instead attend a concert in Santa Fe. At the concert, the assistant public defender drank two glasses of wine; Judge S. did not drink any alcoholic beverages. During the drive back to Albuquerque, the assistant public defender asked Judge S. if he thought he could be fair and impartial in her cases, and he replied that he did not think he could be and would recuse from her cases. Believing that Judge S. would recuse on all her cases, the assistant public defender then called her supervisor, leaving a phone message regarding the Judge’s planned recusal from her cases. Upon returning to Albuquerque, they stopped at the Albuquerque Press Club. They then drove to the assistant public defender’s apartment, where Judge S. parked his car before they walked to a local bar. After spending about an hour and a half at the bar, an acquaintance of Judge S. gave them a ride back to the assistant public defender’s apartment. With her permission, Judge S. kissed the assistant public defender goodnight and left. He admitted that he had begun a personal relationship with the assistant public defender, although he was not sure of its future. Judge S. spoke to her the following day about the time they had spent together on Friday and Saturday.
On Monday, July 13, 2009, Judge S. called his office to report that he was sick and asked his administrative assistant to move his cases scheduled for that day to the following day. He could not remember which of the assistant public defender’s cases were scheduled for that day. He did not, however, tell his assistant that he would be recusing from the assistant public defender’s cases or ask his assistant to prepare notices of recusal. In the evening, he met with the assistant public defender at a nearby park, told her he intended to recuse from her cases, and they discussed the effects of recusal on her work, including her reassignment to a different trial team.
On the day following the sick day, the assistant public defender had two matters before the judge. Her supervisor appeared in one matter; the assistant in the other. The judge heard the assistant's matter and released her client, although the court concluded that there was no adverse impact on the judge's actions. The judge then recused himself from the two cases without mentioning the relationship, although he later confirmed the true reason for the recusal. (Mike Frisch)
What To Do When The Client Is Gone But Escrowed Funds Are Left Behind
The District of Columbia Bar Legal Ethics Committee has a recent opinion on the ethical duies where the client is long gone but escrowed funds remain behind:
A lawyer who is in possession of funds (or other intangible personal property) belonging to a client who cannot be located, and whose last known address is in the District of Columbia (or where the lawyer is domiciled in the District), must exhaust reasonable efforts to locate the client as described more particularly above. Thereafter, it is not a violation of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer in such circumstances to report to the Mayor and transfer client funds that are deemed to be abandoned as required by the D.C. Unclaimed Property Act.