December 30, 2011
Like A Firehorse That Hears An Alarm
An attorney who represented a client while suspended was held in contempt and fined $500 by the Indiana Supreme Court.
The attorney explained that he attended a court proceeding with a former client with the intent to be a witness but "reverted back to this [sic] attorney ways" and acted as a lawyer in the proceeding.
The court indicted that the conduct will be considered in connection with any future disciplinary action or attempt to obtain reinstatement.
A dissent would lock him up for five days in addition to the fine. (Mike Frisch)
The Old Multiple College Try
A candidate for judicial office who made misleading statements about his credentials was publicly reprimanded and fined $5,000 by the Ohio Supreme Court. He claimed to have earned six college degrees in seven years.
The court was concerned about his lack of remorse, noting that he had suggested that "the voters were not harmed, but only [he] was harmed because he lost the election due to his own stupidity." (Mike Frisch)
December 29, 2011
Review Denied On Bar Exam Cheating Findings
A determination of misconduct on the bar examination was affirmed by the New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department. The applicant's petition for review was dismissed.
The proctors observed the applicant "repeatedly craning her neck to look at the exam of the candidate seated next to her" in an attempt to copy multiple choice answers on the July 2009 bar exam. The conduct was observed on both days of the exam.
The court found that there was substantial evidence to support the conclusions of the State Board of Law Examiners with respect to the charges. (Mike Frisch)
Remember The Titan
The web page of the Virginia State Bar reports:
On December 27, 2011, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board administratively suspended [an attorney's] license to practice law for failing to comply with a subpoena duces tecum issued by the bar.
The attorney has been described in a Washington Post article as
...an acknowledged titan of the D.C. area divorce bar, a former president of the Virginia Bar Association who boasts that he is the most expensive lawyer in the region: $850 an hour. He has an impressive office in the District and an array of high-profile clients.
Abovethelaw reported a suit (also the subject of the Post article) in which the attorney sued a former client for unpaid fees but ended up paying a six-figure sum to the former client.
Attorneys suspended on such grounds are reinstated when they comply with the subpoena. (Mike Frisch)
December 28, 2011
A two-year definite suspension was imposed by the South Carolina Supreme Court on the following facts:
Respondent has suffered from depression for a number of years and has been under treatment for the condition. In May of 2004, respondent suffered a massive heart attack that affected his ability to work. In addition, his wife had major health problems which strained the family's finances.
Respondent's wife worked as a bookkeeper at respondent's law office. Respondent gave a copy of Rule 417, SCACR, to his accountant and believed his wife and accountant were properly reconciling his trust account. Respondent acknowledges, however, that he failed to properly supervise his wife in her handling of his accounts and failed to ensure that his firm was operating in compliance with the provisions of Rule 417, SCACR. He further admits he was not properly reconciling his trust account in accordance with the requirements of Rule 417, SCACR.
As a result of his failure to properly supervise his wife/employee, respondent's wife was able to embezzle in excess of $75,000 of client funds from respondent's trust account over a period of years. Respondent's wife claims she took the funds to keep their household running and that she kept her misdeeds from respondent due to his heart problems. The Lawyers' Fund has paid claims to respondent's clients totaling $80,999.65.
At some point, respondent received an email from a client. The email claimed respondent's wife was having an affair and accused her of stealing trust account funds. Initially, respondent did not believe the assertions but subsequently learned them to be true.
Counsel advised respondent to remove his wife from the office. Respondent submits that before he could take any action in removing her or determining the truth about the funds, he was placed on interim suspension.
Respondent has been receiving medical treatment. The physician has cleared respondent medically to return to practice.
The suspension was made retroactive to the attorney's March 2007 interim suspension. (Mike Frisch)
The Defiant Ones
The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary has ordered the public reprimand of a general sessions court judge for imposing a sentence that violated judicial canons of ethics.
The judge had ordered that a father and his son be handcuffed to each other.
The title to this post refers to the classic movie starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. (Mike Frisch)
Cover Up Worse Than Offense
A single justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ordered a two-year suspension in a case where the attorney had committed negligent misappropriation. The client did not file a bar complaint. Rather, the overdraft was reported to Bar Counsel.
The misconduct was made far worse by the attorney's response. He made false representations to Bar Counsel and submitted false documents to support his explanation. the single justice gave significant weight to the attorney's attempt to cover up the initial misconduct through the creation of false records and affidavits. (Mike Frisch)
December 27, 2011
A misdemeanor conviction has resulted in a public censure from the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.
Respondent's criminal conviction arose from an altercation with a taxi cab driver who refused to take respondent and his fiancee (now wife) from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn on Halloween night 2008. The disagreement ended when respondent kicked the driver in the head, knocking him to the ground causing injuries to his mouth, nose, head, face and body, which required medical treatment and surgery to the driver's face and mouth. Respondent was arrested at the scene.
As to sanction:
The assault committed by respondent was disturbing and violent. However, weighing the aberrational nature of the incident with the evidence in mitigation, which includes respondent's youth (he was 26-years-old at the time of the incident and had only been admitted to the bar for less than six months), his genuine remorse and acceptance of responsibility, the attestations as to his good character, his full cooperation with the Committee, and the fact that the misconduct did not occur in the practice of law, the sanction of censure is appropriate.
December 25, 2011
The Law Of Facebook: The Altar Of Debauchery Or Prevailing Social Norms?
The Connecticut Supreme Court has affirmed a decision of the Appellate Court finding no reversible error in a probation revocation order.
The defendant/probationer was sentenced to prison on alcohol-related offenses and was subject to a number of probationary conditions after her release.
At issue was the prosecutor's submission of evidence consisting of a series of photographs from her Facebook page. The undated photos appeared to show her partying at, among other places, Yankee Stadium. Some of the photos had the message "this is why I'm hot."
The prosecutor argued at the hearing that the photos evinced a violation:
...in all these pictures is again [the defendant] worshipping at the altar of alcohol and debauchery and lewd behavior. And why is that significant? It's significant because the message didn't get sent, and this individual refused to accept it.
The court describes the defense counsel's reply:
...the alcohol-related behavior evident on the defendant's Facebook profile was reflective of prevailing social norms, and the images were not representative of the way the defendant spent most of her time...
The court noted that the evidence would not satisfy the requirements of admissibility in a criminal trial but met the "minimal indicia of reliability necessary to pass constitutional muster in the context of a probation revocation hearing." (Mike Frisch)