Sunday, February 26, 2017
Reciprocal disbarment has been ordered by a justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court based on the imposition of that sanction in Pennsylvania.
As in Massachusetts, the duly-notified respondent did not appear at the disciplinary proceedings in Pennsylvania, and therefore the facts of his alleged misconduct were deemed admitted. The respondent had been an assistant district attorney in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was fired for documented instances of serious misconduct in his professional duties in three separate matters. Among other things, the respondent:
1) met intentionally, and alone, with witnesses whose mental competence was in question, against explicit court order not to do so, and discussed their testimony at length prior to their appearance in court, in a case involving sexual abuse against victims with mental impairments, ultimately resulting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania being unable to pursue some of the criminal charges; 2) met with a witness who was represented by counsel, without counsel's knowledge or consent, and discussed her intended testimony with her, resulting in the respondent being disqualified from representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the matter; and 3) in another case, deliberately mischaracterized and misrepresented the evidence, including repeatedly making references to evidence which he knew did not exist, and attempted to intimidate both the defendant and his counsel, by repeated instances of "yelling, menacing, and pointing in their faces" while court was in session.
Sanction per Justice Lenk
In deciding the appropriate sanction to impose, the Pennsylvania disciplinary committee noted that it had found no instances of a similar case in Pennsylvania. Given the severe nature of the misconduct, however, -- "repeated dishonest conduct, misrepresentation to the court and lack of respect for the court in his capacity as a prosecutor -- the committee concluded that the respondent's misconduct "was particularly harmful to the public's confidence in the legal system," and that nothing short of disbarment would protect the public and the legal profession. The committee also noted the additional aggravating factor of the respondent's continual refusal to participate in the disciplinary proceedings against him, notwithstanding having received notice in hand.
I agree completely with this reasoning and this result.
The Titusville Herald reported on the Pennsylvania action. (Mike Frisch)