Sunday, September 10, 2017
A Louisiana Hearing Committee recommends disbarment of an attorney for, among other things, a Rule 8.2 violation
The formal complaint was opened on September 29, 2014. Judge Mentz, before recusing himself, presided over Respondent's child custody and support suit that Respondent was engaged in with his former spouse. Judge Mentz was compelled to recuse himself from the matter because Respondent had qualified to run against him in the general election for the Division "F" bench.
The basis of the formal complaint was statements that Respondent made to the news media (NOLA. com and the Advocate) during the election. Judge Mentz had, during the pendency of Respondent's family case, ordered that Respondent submit to a drug test, which Respondent had refused. Respondent spoke with the news media and it was reported "there was no basis for his ex-wife's request that he be drug-tested, and he accused Mentz of altering the court transcript as it related to the deadline by which he was supposed to take the drug test." According to a news story on NOLA. com, Respondent made accusations against Complainant by "asserting that Mentz has doctored the public record, altering the transcript of an August 7 court hearing." According to the Advocate article, Respondent further commented, stating that he was running for judge against Mentz to "highlight that Mentz doesn't belong on the bench." Respondent said that "when faced with a situation where I have firsthand knowledge (of misconduct) and I know it happened, how can I turn my back on this and not do it?"
Judge Mentz has publicly stated that he has never altered a transcript, and that he would have no reason to alter one. He said he is not involved in transcribing court proceedings and has never reviewed one before it was entered into the record.
Respondent later made the same accusation of court transcript tampering against Judge Mentz during a formal ODC proceeding. He testified of the existence of a tape recording that established his claims that a transcript of a hearing in front of Judge Mentz had been altered.
Respondent had made a request to review this tape, but the request was denied. Respondent appealed the denial to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, who then ordered Judge Donald A. Rowan to conduct an in camera inspection of the audio file of the August 7, 2014 hearing to ensure that the written transcript in the trial record accurately reflected the verbal orders of Judge Mentz, and for Judge Rowan to make a report to the Court. Judge Rowan's report and affidavit confirmed the accuracy of the transcript when it was compared with the audio recording. Respondent has been unable to produce any evidence to support the statements and allegations that he made to NOLA.com and the Advocate.
The investigation into the matter by the Fifth Circuit concluded that Respondent's accusations against Judge Mentz were without merit. It is undisputed that slander and libel are not speech protected by the First Amendment.
There are findings of misconduct in two client matters
In Complaint I, Respondent accused a sitting judge facing reelection of doctoring a public record by altering the transcript of a court hearing in which Respondent was a party. This accusation was made public in news stories carried in both local newspapers. Respondent offered no proof of his own and an examination of the hearing tape proved the accusation to be false.
In Complaint II, Respondent lied to his client when he told her had filed her lawsuit when he had not. He then ignored further communications regarding the status of the matter. When confronted by the client after she found out on her own that no suit was filed, Respondent lied to her again when he said her case had been "lost." Respondent never admitted his failure to file suit.
In Complaint III, Respondent accepted $3,000.00 to file an appeal. After missing the deadline to file his client's brief, Respondent voluntarily dismissed the appeal and did not tell his client. Despite multiple communications, Respondent failed to reveal to his client that he had dismissed her appeal. He later told the client the appeal was not a good idea, despite taking the engagement for just that purpose. After the client found out on her own that Respondent has dismissed her appeal, Respondent stopped responding to the client's communication attempts. Respondent failed to account for the $3,000.00 fee he accepted.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel favored suspension.
The Louisiana Record reported on an earlier consent deferred suspension . (Mike Frisch)