Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed and reversed in part the disposition of summary judgment motions in a case where a judge engaged in a campaign to retain her seat sued a blogger who supported a candidate for a State Senate seat. The judge supported a different candidate.
The blogger posted a Facebook entry that accused the judge of misconduct for supporting a State Senate candidate. The entry was also posted on Carolina Talk Network. The same day, the judge's attorney informed the blogger that, as a candidate herself, the judge was allowed to endorse other office seekers.
The blogger posted a second comment apologizing for the first comment. He went on to state that he had read the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct "top to bottom" and asserted his belief that "for any Republican office holder to campaign openly for any candidate in a primary is wrong." He appended portions of the Code but omitted the portion that specially permits a judicial candidate to endorse another candidate for office.
The court held that the first post contaimed a false statement but there was no evidence of actual malice. Summary judgment was affirmed on behalf of the defendant blogger.
The court found that the second post was not a constitutionally protected opinion. The post stated that the defendant had consulted an attorney friend and that "[w]e both agreed that there is probable cause for such [disciplinary] action [against the judge]. Read the appendix and make up your own mind."
The defendant was found to have attempted to mislead readers by failing to attach the portion of the Code that allowed the conduct at issue.
The court here held that the second post was subject to one interpretation and was defamatory: "It was, therefore, defamation per se as a matter of law."
The court also held that there was sufficient evidence that the second post was motivated by actual malice to present the issue to a jury. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, April 30, 2012
The Iowa Supreme Court has suspended an attorney without possibility of reinstatement for one year.
The attorney had previously been suspended for three months. He had "burned out" of law practice and neglected two matters while transitioning to a teaching career. He was reinstated in 2008.
Here, he forged a guilty plea document on behalf of a client charged with second offense operating while intoxicated. As a result, the client got a seven-day jail sentence.
The attorney did not file formal pleadings in the bar matter. Rather, he sent a letter and an email:
[The attorney] attempted to skirt the formal adversary process by defending himself throgh two self-termed "informal note[s]" He presented no sworn evidence on his behalf, nor was he subject to cross-examination...We similarly expect attorneys to defend themselves within the formal adjudicatory procedures provided in our court rules. Accordingly, we do not give any weight to [his] letter or email denying certain Board alllegations.
The charges were thus established by default. (Mike Frisch)
It must the season of forgiveness.
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended the reinstatement of an attorney disbarred in 2003. While the board majority acknowledged that the petitioner failed to satisfy reinstatement criteria that included compliance with the order of disbarment, it found "good and sufficient reasons why he should nevertheless be readmitted to practice law."
The board "took note" of a dissent from the original disbarment order opining that a lengthy supension was "a more appropriate sanction." The petitioner had experienced a number of tragic circumstances at the time of the misconduct and presented numerous character witnesses. He had housed as many as 80 volunteer ministers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Petitioner is 77 years old and wanted "to erase the disgrace he feels he brought upon himself and his family."
There is a dissent of three members who note that the reinstatement criteria "calls upon the Petitioner, even if unable to again pass the Bar, which is understandable, to demonstrate [current competence to practice law]...If one really wanted one's license back, it seems he would have done far more than Petitioner did in trying to carry his burden in the re-admission process."
There is a problem with the link. You should be able to access the report at this link under the name Lawrence Sledge. (Mike Frisch)