Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dog Bite Pro Bono Defense Costs Job And Reprimand

The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board imposed a public reprimand

Respondent was terminated from her position as Assistant Attorney General at the State of Louisiana Attorney General's Office for representing Stanley J. Lee, Jr., in a criminal matter (dog fighting), at the 7th Judicial District Court, in violation of Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, article 65. Respondent represented Mr. Lee on this charges in court on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 and Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Respondent submitted sick leave at the Office of Attorney General on these days.

The representation was pro bono

La. C. Cr. P. Art. 65 makes it “unlawful” for any assistant attorney general “to defend or assist in the defense of any person charged with an offense in any parish of the state.” Respondent acknowledged that she violated Article 65 and that the representation was “unlawful” but denied that it constituted criminal conduct under Rule 8.4(b) as charged by ODC. The committee found that she violated the provision, as she had admitted, but concluded she did not knowingly do so. It found that while Respondent had been informed by Attorney General officials that she, and others similarly employed, were free to engage in the private practice of law in lieu of salary increases, the evidence did not clearly establish that she was provided with her employer’s Private Practice Policy, which addressed the prohibition.

As to sick leave

The committee also considered the allegation that Respondent claimed sick leave at the Attorney General’s office for two of the three days she made appearances in court in Concordia Parish (April 23, 2014 and June 11, 2014) and her failure to make any entry for time away from the office on a third day (April 30, 2014). After considering Respondent’s testimony, which indicated that on two occasions, she mistakenly entered the wrong code into the Attorney General’s litigation time and billing program and then failed to submit the proper paperwork  which would have corrected the error, and that, in fact, she had worked 7.5 hours as claimed on April 30, 2014, the committee found a lack of clear and convincing evidence to establish that misconduct had occurred.

The board found a conflict but

Respondent worked as an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division and represented a criminal defendant, pro bono, in a different parish than the one in which she worked in a non-prosecutorial role. Her conduct was negligent, and once she learned that she had violated the Rules, she immediately took steps to rectify the consequences of her misconduct. No aggravating factors are present and several very significant mitigating factors apply.

A dissent would impose a private admonition. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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