Friday, June 20, 2014

Reinstatement Denied With One Vote For Mercy

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has acknowledged a petitioner's commendable progress in drug rehabilitation but nonetheless denied his application to be reinstated to practice.

The attorney's license had been annulled in West Virginia and Georgia as a result of a federal felony conviction for forgery. He also misappropriated entrusted funds.

The court noted that the attorney became involved with drugs as a teenager. He was sober for many years, completed his education and had gone to work at his father's law firm.

He resumed  illegal drug use after being prescribed cough syrup that contained hydrocodone. He failed to advise the prescribing doctor of his drug history. He got hooked on the syrup and then moved on to oxycodone and crack cocaine.

The triggering event for the relapse was the death of his child's six-year-old friend in his swimming pool.

He went to federal prison as a result of the conviction and has been sober since 2007.

The court was concerned about his candor and acceptance of responsibility

More compelling are the falsehoods. These also indicate that Mr. DiTrapano’s inclinations regarding the truth have not been amended to an extent that would overcome the nature of his prior dishonest conduct. While he may no longer be under the influence of illegal drugs, we cannot overlook his failure to be thoroughly forthright with the [Lawyer Disciplinary Board] and this Court.

In view of the foregoing, we choose not to adopt the recommendation of the HPS, and we deny Mr. DiTrapano’s petition for reinstatement of his law license. Mr. DiTrapano has failed to carry his burden of showing this Court that he currently possesses the integrity and moral character necessary to resume the practice of law. We conclude that reinstatement would have a justifiable and substantial adverse effect on the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.

There was a concurring opinion linked  here.

Justice Ketchum dissented

 Sometimes we need to mix a little mercy with justice...

Mr. Ditrapano was in legal trouble for years because of his drug and alcohol addiction. However, he has been drug and alcohol free for over seven years and straightened up his life. In fact, he has more than met our five-factor test for rehabilitation in order to be readmitted to the practice of law.

 The hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board heard the evidence, considered the extent of the rehabilitation, weighed the demeanor of the witnesses and Mr. Ditrapano, and made a thoughtful, measured recommendation. I would accept their recommendation to conditionally reinstate Mr. Ditrapano’s law license after the completion of his supervised release.

I disagree with my distinguished colleagues.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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