Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kansas Disbars Diaz

The Kansas Supreme Court has disbarred former Navy attorney Matthew Diaz as a result of his court martial conviction for passing information to an attorney defending Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The information was sent anonymously to an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in a Valentine's Day card.

The court rejected the suggestion that his reason for doing so should result in a lesser sanction, noting his own testimony that his motive was selfish.

A minority of the court would impose indefinite suspension. (Mike Frisch)

November 21, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Somber Time

The Tennessee Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney recently convicted of misconduct in office.

NewsChannel11 reported:

Former Hawkins County Assistant District Attorney General John Douglas Godbee was convicted Monday in Jefferson County Circuit Court on a charge of official misconduct.

The investigation into Godbee’s conduct began when, in September 2010, a female defendant and her mother alleged that Doug Godbee – who at the time was an assistant prosecutor in the 3rd Judicial District- had allegedly attempted to solicit a sexual relationship with the daughter. The sexual relationship was ostensibly in exchange for a favorable outcome in the criminal case Godbee was prosecuting.

The case first went to court in April of 2011, when the state and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation brought forth an indictment by the Hawkins County grand jury.

The case was transferred and went through the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals before being remanded back to Circuit Court in Jefferson County, where the case came to an end with Godbee’s conviction.

Today Godbee entered a no contest plea to one count of official misconduct. He was instructed to serve a two-year sentence, which he will serve as supervised probation.

In court, Judge Duane Slone first said that Godbee was pleading guilty, but he was corrected by the defendant who pleaded “no contest”.

The court laid out Godbee’s sentence requirements, which include community service, therapy, a psychosexual evaluation, court costs and fines.

He was instructed by the court that he must follow any and all recommendations of his therapist as he continues under his current medical and mental counseling regiment.

Godbee says that, as of Monday, he has already surrendered his license to his attorney. He has also consented to be disbarred by the Tennessee State Supreme Court from his practice of law, as ordered by the court.

If Godbee meets all the requirements of his probation for one year, he will be allowed to go on unsupervised probation for the remainder of his two-year sentence. 

Godbee’s attorney, Paul Whetstone, refused to speak to the media today other than to make one comment. “It’s a somber time right now,” he said.

(Mike Frisch) 

November 20, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Size Doesn't Matter (For A Judge)

In an opinion that noted "the ethical dilemmas judges in small communities face," the New Mexico Supreme Court has imposed a formal reprimand with conditions on a municipal court judge who had engaged in ex parte contacts with parties in a matter before him:

Respondent, based on his personal knowledge of the situation and the parties, initiated at least two ex parte communications and issued a temporary restraining order without authority or jurisdiction. Respondent has characterized his actions as an effort "to keep the peace" between two families in a small community. While Respondent may have had good intentions, his actions were knowing and intentional... We therefore take this opportunity to discuss the importance of abiding by the Code of Judicial Conduct no matter the size of the community in which a judge resides.

The conditions include probation for twelve months and a formal mentorship. (Mike Frisch)

November 20, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Ohio AG Suspended

From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

The law license of former Ohio Attorney General Marc E. Dann has been  suspended for six months for engaging in conduct that resulted in his  conviction on misdemeanor criminal counts of soliciting improper compensation  and filing false financial disclosure statements during his tenure as attorney  general.

In a 7-0 per  curiam opinion announced today, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted findings by  the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that Dann “engaged in  conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law” by making  improper payments from his political campaign fund to two senior aides while  they were employed by the attorney general’s office and by filing  2007 and 2008 financial disclosure statements  that failed to disclose expense reimbursement checks totaling $17,540 that Dann  had received from his campaign committee and failed to disclose that a campaign  contributor and his companies had paid more than $20,000 to lease a private jet  that transported Dann, his children and others to a seminar in Scottsdale,  Arizona.

In rejecting  Dann’s argument that a stayed license suspension was a sufficient sanction for  his misconduct, the court wrote: “While we recognize that Dann has offered  substantial mitigating evidence, we note that he has previously been  disciplined by this court, he has admitted that he knowingly engaged in the  conduct that resulted in his criminal conviction for soliciting improper  compensation, and that his conduct with respect to his financial-disclosure  statements fell somewhere between reckless and knowing.  He also engaged in this unlawful conduct  while serving as the state’s chief legal officer and one of the most  recognizable attorneys in this state.”

“Having considered, Dann’s conduct, the  applicable aggravating and mitigating factors, and the sanctions imposed for  comparable misconduct, we find that the board properly weighed the aggravating  and mitigating factors present in this case. Therefore, we overrule Dann’s  objections, concur with the findings of the board, and agree that a six-month  actual license suspension is the appropriate sanction for Dann’s misconduct.”

The court concluded that Dann had done "incalculable harm" to the reputation of his office.

The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

November 20, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Disbarment Proposed For Convicted Defense Attorney

The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility has recommended that criminal defense attorney Charles Daum be disbarred for his conviction of offenses described by the Department of Justice: 

Veteran District of Columbia defense attorney Charles F. Daum, 66, of Arnold, Md., was found guilty today of one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, three counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of subornation of perjury, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department; and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

 Daum’s co-defendants, private investigators Daaiyah Pasha, 62, of Washington, D.C., and Iman Pasha, 32, of Springfield, Va., were also found guilty today on one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.  

 After a six-week bench trial, Senior U.S District Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued her verdict today.   Daum was acquitted on one charge of witness tampering.

The board found that the offenses involved moral turpitude per se, which requires dfisbarment as the sanction.

The board's report can be found at this link. (Mike Frisch)

November 19, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Obvious Hypocrisy" When Drug Prosecutor Flaunts Law

An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended disbarment of an attorney charged with the following:

The Complaint charged Respondent with misconduct arising out of his sharing of a townhouse with a person Respondent knew was distributing marijuana from their residence and Respondent's use of marijuana with persons he knew were involved in drug transactions. At the time, Respondent was employed as an Assistant State's Attorney. Respondent was charged with additional misconduct based on false statements he made to police and his supervisors at the State's Attorney's office.

As to sanction:

The drug-related misconduct present here would be reprehensible for any lawyer. Respondent, however, engaged in this misconduct while employed as an Assistant State's Attorney. This is an aggravating factor. Sims, 144 Ill. 2d at 325. Respondent's assignment in the Traffic Division entailed the duty to prosecute cases involving activity, i.e., possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, in which Respondent himself was engaged. The obvious hypocrisy inherent in this situation is extremely damaging to the integrity of the legal profession.

...we have an Assistant State's Attorney who flaunted the law before and after being licensed to practice. Respondent had used drugs with [his housemate] Yoselowitz for years before sharing a residence with him. This history reflects Respondent's state of mind. Respondent continued in this pattern of behavior as his legal career began, thereby demonstrating an utter disregard for his responsibilities to uphold the law. Nothing in this record gives us any reason to think Respondent's behavior would have ceased if Yoselowitz had not been arrested.

(Mike Frisch)

November 19, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Taxing Situation

In a 4-3 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals declined to impose the identical reciprocal discipline of a six-month suspension that had been ordered in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The underlying misconduct involved the attorney's conviction for willful failure to file Maryland state tax returns for two consecutive years.

The court majority noted that disciplinary action had already been taking by a number of federal courts, as well as in Virginia and the District of Columbia.  (one court action is described as "[j]umping on the band wagon" of bar discipline). The majority imposed an indefinite suspension with the right to apply for reinstatement when the attorney secures the return of his license in the jurisidictions that have already sanctioned him.

The dissent expresses concern that the court knows very little about the offenses and would withhold discipline pending an evidentiary hearing. (Mike Frisch)

November 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Under Observation

An attorney who was observed by undercover police officers while purchasing crack cocaine had been suspended for three years by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The court (over a dissent) agreed with the proposed consent discipline reached between the attorney and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

The attorney also failed to report his conviction and practiced while administratively suspended. (Mike Frisch)

November 19, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)