Friday, January 18, 2013

Former Role Model Skulks To Disbarment

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney convicted of offenses relating to the bribery of public officials.

Boston.com reported on the sentencing in the criminal case:

Chief Judge Mary Lisi told Ciresi that his role skulking around a parking lot at night to be a bagman in a bribery scheme “reeks of corruption.’’

“Sadly, Mr. Ciresi, I’m going to sentence you to prison today; that’s a choice you made when you decided to help with the bribes instead of telling them to stop,’’ said Lisi, who recalled Ciresi’s status as a role model when she was a young lawyer.

A jury convicted Ciresi in April of conspiracy, bribery, and extortion. The sentencing guidelines called for him to spend between five years and three months to 6 1/2 years in prison.

A five-year sentence was imposed by Chief Judge Lisi, who formerly served as Rhode Island's disciplinary counsel. (Mike Frisch)

January 18, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Line Drawing When An Attorney Withholds Fees Due To A Firm

The Iowa Supreme Court has imposed a suspension of three months of an attorney for misconduct as a shareholder of a four-attorney firm.

The firm required each attorney to give all earned fees to the bookkeeper for deposit in the firm's general account. The attorneys drew equal salaries with a quarterly distribution "proportionate to the revenue for which [a shareholder] was responsible."

The bookkeeper had suspicions that the attorney had not turned over certain checks. An investigation ensued. The attorney admitted that he deposited fee checks in his personal account in an estimated total of $10,000. He left the firm and started his own practice.

The attorney brought the matter to the attention of bar authorities and attributed the conduct to "control issues."

The court rejected the public reprimand proposed by the Grievance Commission:

In cases like this, the determination of sanction is a matter of line drawing. In light of the seriousness of [the attorney's] misconduct, we suspend [his] license to practice law in this state for three months.

Justice Wiggins would draw that line elsewhere:

Dishonesty is a trait that disqualifies a person from the practice of law. An attorney who converts fees from his partners, when a dispute over the fees does not exist, is per se unfit to practice law. Thus, I have no hesutation in revoking [his] license to practice law.

The Nebraska Supreme Court also decided a disciplinary case today in which an associate attorney failed to turn over a $1,500 fee to his firm. The court imposed a suspension of 20 months retroactive to a December 2011 temporary suspension.

The Nebraska case had a second count of misconduct involving the same client. 

The client came to the attorney's office after business hours  "to sign and retrieve some papers." They  "engaged in typical pleasantries" and went into his private office. He told her to come around his desk to look at a photo on his computer screen. When she did, he "pulled her down onto his lap and touched her in an inappropriate manner. Shortly thereafter, [they] began excahnging text messages of an inappropriate nature."

(Mike Frisch)

January 18, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No Suspension For Contempt Conviction

An attorney who was convicted of contempt in the second degree has been publicly reprimanded by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

The attorney made disbursements to his client in violation of a civil forfeiture order.

The court found a non-suspensory sanction to be appropriate:

...both respondent's testimony before the Panel and the stipulation of facts demonstrate that, by disbursing funds to [client] Pustilnik despite knowledge of the forfeiture order, respondent is guilty of criminal contempt. However, the evidence also established that respondent only disbursed funds to Pustilnik in violation of the forfeiture order because he believed that since he was never served with the order, it was not binding on him. Moreover, the record evinces that respondent was remorseful, fully cooperated with the criminal investigation by the District Attorney's Office, and pleaded guilty to the criminal charge, thereby accepting responsibility for his actions. Lastly, the evidence demonstrates that after pleading guilty, respondent then immediately reported the conviction to the Committee, fully cooperating with its investigation, he had a deep commitment to charitable work,was actively involved in several charitable organizations, enjoyed a good reputation in the legal community, and did not profit from the disbursements he made to Pustilnik.

Given the absence of any aggravating circumstances and the existence of several mitigating circumstances, we agree with the Panel's recommended sanction of public censure. Specifically, respondent committed the crime alleged under a misapprehension of the law and cooperated both with the District Attorney's Office's and the Committee's investigation. Furthermore, respondent took full responsibility for his actions, did not profit from them, and has a good reputation in the legal community.

(Mike Frisch)

January 17, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Price Of A Harley Davidson Is Disbarment

The Wyoming Supreme Court has disbarred a former county deputy attorney who had purchased a 2007 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycle from an Idaho dealer.

He misrepresented the purchase price of the Ultra Classic motorcycle to pay less in taxes and other fees. He claimed that the price was $800 when it in fact was $14,000.

In attempting to renew the resistration of other Harleys he owned, the attorney made similar misrepresentations to the county treasurer and submitted a falsified sales document. His tax obligation was reduced by over $900 as a result.

He was charged with felony forgery and possession of forged writings, resigned his deputy attorney position, and negotiated a plea to one felony count. He was placed on unsupervised probation for two years. (Mike Frisch)

January 16, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

As Massachusetts Goes, So Goes Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has imposed the identical reciprocal discipline of a year and a day suspension as previously ordered against an attorney by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The attorney had "vastly inflated billings to clients to increase his compensation from [his] firm."

 He resigned from the law firm when the misconduct was discovered, returned unearned fees and "waived all efforts to receive fees that had been charged but not collected." (Mike Frisch)

January 16, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Suspension For Marijuana Possession

The Indiana Supreme Court has imposed a suspension of 180 days, with all but 30 days stayed, as a result of an attorney's guilty plea to one count of possession of marijuana.

In the criminal case, the attorney served four days in jail. In the disciplinary matter, the attorney was cooperative, had no prior discipline, and agreed to monitoring by the bar's lawyer assistance program.

The attorney will be on probation for two years as part of the disciplinary sanction. (Mike Frisch)

January 16, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecutor Sanctioned For Drug Fund "Donations" Practice

A former city prosecutor has been publicly reprimanded by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The misconduct involved a practice of dismissing "certain types of drug cases" for a promise that the defendant make payment to a city "drug fund."

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had issued an order in 2003 prohibiting the practice. The prosecutor determined that the order did not apply to the "donations" at issue. He also ignored concerns expressed by the solicitor about the practice in 2011.

The prosecutor was arrested and charged with misconduct in office. He was placed on interim suspension and pled guilty to a criminal charge.

He admitted here that he had a practice of dismissing charges in exchange for "donations" was an unauthorized diversion program and that he had ignored the Chief Judge's order and concerns of the solicitor.  

The court lifted the interim suspension. (Mike Frisch)

January 16, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Facebook Post With Escaped Prisoner's Photo Not A Good Idea

An attorney who has received a significant amount of unfavorable publicity has resigned from the Oklahoma Bar.

Oklahoma's Own 9 had a report on some of the attorney's issues:

Oklahoma City police say a Nichols Hills attorney posted photos of herself and her boyfriend on Facebook just hours after he escaped from prison.

Roy Kuykendall escaped from Union City Correction Facility sometime the night of July 9. Police say his girlfriend, attorney Amy McTeer, helped him escape. Investigators listened to a phone call between McTeer and Kuykendall, and heard the two hatching an escape plan.

Jerry Massie, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, says Kuykendall just walked away from the correctional center. The facility is not secure, and prisoners can come and go for work. Prison employees discovered Kuykendall was missing during a head count.

Kuykendall was arrested less than a day after his escape. Oklahoma City police found him in a Bricktown restaurant having lunch with McTeer. Police say when they confronted the couple, McTeer lied about Kuykendall's identity.

Police say McTeer later told them she and Kuykendall planned to get married.

Investigators say during Kuykendall's few hours of freedom, McTeer took pictures of them together and uploaded them to her Facebook page. Investigators say those pictures may provide enough evidence to charge McTeer with harboring a fugitive.

KFOR TV had a report on the attorney's series of arrests.

The resignation while there is a pending disciplinary matter is "tantamount to disbarment." (Mike Frisch)

January 15, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Conviction Vacated, Suspension Vacated

The Delaware Supreme Court vacated an interim suspension order entered after the attorney was convicted of feloniy offenses involving conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC and mail fraud.

The conviction was vacated by the Second Circuit and remanded for a new trial. The government then filed a consent motion for a deferred prosecution continuance and will dismiss the indictment with prejudice if the attorney complies with his obligations under the agreement.

The order here removes the disciplinary sanction and returns the attorney to inactive status. (Mike Frisch)

January 15, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Welcome Back, With A Dissent

The Maryland Court of Appeals has reinstated an attorney disbarred in 2007 as a result of his conviction of misprison of a felony.

Judge Battaglia dissented, calling the action "an unwarranted lowering of the bar for reinstatement from disbarment, especially those that emanate from a felony conviction."

She describes the offense as involving the attorney's concealment of immigration fraud at a company that employed him, as well as false statements to the U.S. government. Further, Judge Battaglia was not persuaded that the attorney had acknowledged the extent of the misconduct. (Mike Frisch)

January 15, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Choice Words

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has agreed with a recommendation of its Committee on Character and Fitness ("committee") and denied bar admission to an applicant after he had passed the bar exam on his third attempt.

The issues related to arrests in 1983 and 1998, as well as traffic violations and incident reports. The committee "focused on two confrontations applicant had with the Providence police and one confrontation with Rhode Island state police."

 He admitted calling an officer "a f***ing idiot" and mischaracterized the ensuing disorderly conduct charges.

While in law school, he was charged with offenses after he "allegedly had tied his dogs to the door handle of a bank" and "had a few choice words" for the responding police officers.

The committee found that the applicant did not give full and accurate information and was not candid and sincere with the admissions process.

This summary is from the court's web page:

The Supreme Court adopted the recommendation of the committee, finding that, despite several hearings and multiple opportunities to amend his application, the applicant failed to fully disclose information requested in the application.  Notably, the applicant failed to amend his application to disclose a recent arrest.  The Court found no evidence of abuse of discretion on the part of the committee, and it held that the applicant had failed to meet his burden of proving his character and fitness to practice law as a member of the Rhode Island bar.

(Mike Frisch)

January 14, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Nifong Assistant Charged With Making False Domestic Violence Claim

A North Carolina attorney has been charged with making false and misleading allegations  in order to obtain a domestic violence protective order ("DVPO") against a person with whom she had had a romantic relationship.

The complaint alleges that there was "no basis in fact" for the testimony presented over the course of four days and that the court had "found [her] testimony completely non-credible and dismissed [her] DVPO complaint."

According to this post at Durham-In-Wonderland, the attorney had served as a assistant district attorney in Mike Nifong's office. (Mike Frisch)

January 14, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)