Friday, September 13, 2013

Split Board Proposes Sanction For Settlement Conference Threat

Over three dissents that would affirm a hearing committee's findings of no misconduct, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended a public reprimand for an incident that took place during an informal settlement conference in the attorney's office.

As the hearing committee found, "tempers flared and the [attorney] used inappropriate language" with the opposing parties and their attorney.

The attorney

made the comment that he was going to 'nail you (referring to the [opposing parties]) down like Pontius Pilate and the nail driving five.

In the disciplinary proceeding, the attorney indicated that he intended to convey his view of the strength of his client's position.

The board here found that the attorney's "utterly unprofessional" conduct amounted to a simple assault that violated Rule 8.4(b) and was prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Both sides had gotten angry and each felt threatened by the other:

The Board acknowledges that this type of verbal altercation is, unfortunately, not unheard of between Louisiana lawyers and lawyers in general. Such behavior between grown adults who purport to be professionals is inexcusable, and harms the legal profession. Whether [the attorney] was provoked or not, he nonetheless exhibited threatening and aggressive behavior which rose to the level of simple assault.

From the dissent of Adjudicative Committee Chair Preis:

While I do not condone the behavior of [the attorney] which was clearly unprofessional and wrong, in my judgement there is a great deal of distance between unprofessional and wrong conduct, and a disciplinary violation. Additionally, in my judgment, there is even more territory between unprofessional and wrong conduct, and a criminal act of assault...I firmly believe all of this is a stretch that I am simply unwilling to make.

(Mike Frisch)

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