Monday, September 29, 2014

Former KBI Official Disbarred

The Kansas Supreme Court recently disbarred an attorney convicted of sexual expliotation of a child.

Tokepa Capital-Journal has the details here

Kyle G. Smith, a former administrator with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, was charged Thursday with sexual exploitation of a child involving a visual medium, according to Shawnee County District Court records.

Smith, who was third in line at the KBI, also was charged with two counts of interference with law enforcement, alleging he tried to destroy evidence on a telephone and on a computer.

In this case, the Kansas sexual exploitation statute defines the offense as "possessing any visual depiction of a child under 18 years of age shown or heard engaging in sexually explicit conduct with intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires or appeal to the prurient interest of the offender or any other person." Often that means it is a still photograph.

The exploitation charge and the obstructing charges are felonies.

Smith, a lawyer, has more than three decades of experience in law enforcement and criminal prosecution.

“We are saddened and disappointed that a past employee of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is alleged to have committed the acts charged today by the Shawnee County district attorney,” KBI Director Kirk Thompson said in a statement Thursday night. “The case is now properly before the courts and, therefore, it would be inappropriate for me or any other member of the agency to comment further at this time.”

Fox4kc.com  reports that he was sentenced to probation and tells how the conduct was discovered

The charge involved an image of a teenage girl engaged in sexually explicit conduct. An email containing the picture was traced to Smith’s KBI account after an agency secretary discovered the image last fall and notified her superiors.

 (Mike Frisch)

September 29, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eleven Minutes

An attorney retained in a domestic relations matter violated ethics rules by filing a motion to withdraw from representation eleven minutes before a scheduled hearing regarding change of custody.

An Arkansas Committe on Professional Conduct panel imposed a sanction of a reprimand and fine.

His story

In addition to non-payment of his fee by his client in the Stevens case, in his Response to the Complaint and at hearing Sammons testified that he believed his client to also be impaired by drugs when he met with her about one hour before the hearing and he was in an ethical dilemma as to how to proceed, not wanting to be party to what he perceived would possibly be perjured testimony by his client if she testified. He admitted he did not give the trial judge any hint at court that his client may be impaired. His client testified and attempted to cross-examine the opposing party. Judge Hearnsberger testified she has no reason from what she saw and heard in the hearing to believe Crystal Stevens was impaired during the hearing.

The client had a positive drug test after the hearing.

The attorney also was found in violation of the court order that he proceed as counsel. He stayed for the hearing but did not participate. (Mike Frisch0

September 29, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Wonders Of Indiana"

The Michigan Attorny Discipline Board rejected a hearing panel's conclusion that an attorney failed to report misconduct but otherwise affirmed findings of misconduct and a 90-day suspension in a matter involving vexatious and frivolous litigation.

The Indiana Lawyer reported on the underlying litigation

A federal judge in Hammond has sanctioned two Detroit attorneys who filed what he calls a frivolous claim demonstrating a pattern of misconduct, fining each lawyer and their client in a sharply worded ruling.

 In a 21-page order issued July 31 in Cheryl Janky v. Batistatos, et al., No. 2:07-cv-339, U.S. District Judge Philip P. Simon in the Northern District of Indiana unleashed a written assault against attorneys Gregory Reed and Stephanie L. Hammonds,  attorneys on the case that began almost five years ago as a copyright-infringement suit. They represent Cheryl Janky, an Indiana  woman who'd sued the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau about a doo-wop song she wrote and copyrighted called  "Wonders of Indiana," which the bureau used without permission in promotional videos and albums sold at its welcome center. That case culminated with a $100,000 verdict in Janky's favor in 2007; but it wasn't the end of the litigation, and the case resulted in further disputes about procedural issues.

As the District judge on the case, Judge Simon has written about this issue before. In April 2008, he described this as "one of those cases that gives lawyers a bad name," and said what began as a routine copyright-infringement dispute "deteriorated into a nuclear arms race of costly litigation tactics and the worst kind of mean spirited attorney game-playing."

This action came in September 2007 based on claims the defendants made when defending the earlier suit, with Hammonds and  Reed contending that the defenses used previously were frivolous and groundless - despite Magistrate Judge Andrew Rodovich's previous rulings to the contrary.

In the latest sanction ruling, Judge Simon takes note of everything from their "flimsy" and "spurious" arguments that had already been dismissed and found to have been supported by law; grammatical and spelling errors in their filings; and a lengthy history of past sanctions in at least four other cases in the Detroit-based Eastern District of Michigan. He notes they'd been warned before in this case and also been sanctioned on the litigation, as well.

 "Respondents say that this history of sanctions 'does not establish a pattern of litigation misconduct ...'  But a pattern of misconduct is precisely what I see," Judge Simon wrote. "Attorney sanctions are a rare enough event that the presence of even one would be a source of concern. But Reed and Hammonds have been sanctioned on multiple occasions over the past five years, to the point where it almost looks as though they are now flaunting their inappropriate conduct."

 He points out that the attorneys' conduct demonstrates a pattern and proof that they're using redundant claims as a leverage and harassment tactic, as opposed to just overzealous advocacy or a failure to understand pertinent legal concepts.

"Enough is enough. It is apparent that neither side can take the hint, and I am half convinced that both parties are treating matters as a joke," the judge wrote. "But the best medicine will be to just end things. Respondents will  be sanctioned for their bringing of the current lawsuit, pursuant to the Court's Rule 11 powers. It was the filing of the second federal suit that opened Pandora's Box and is the action most in need of court response in order to prevent further conduct."

Judge Simon fined Reed $10,000, Hammonds $5,000, and client Janky $1,000. The judge also prohibited the attorneys from filing any civil complaints on behalf of Janky in the Northern District without posting a $5,000 bond to cover the "high probability" of additional sanctions.

That verdict appeal reached the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which today issued a separate ruling in Cheryl Janky v.  Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nos. 07-2350, 07-2762, and 08-1606, that remands the case to the District Court for summary judgment in favor of the bureau. But this appellate decision isn't directly a part of Judge Simon's sanctions, and it's not immediately clear what impact it might have. The appellate ruling does point to various issues  about the counsels' work, particularly unfocused briefs, and a previous $2,500 fine Reed received on the case that he sought to pay off using the verdict money.

Reached by phone this morning, Hammonds told Indiana Lawyer that she needed to more fully review Judge Simon's ruling before making any comments. Reed didn't immediately respond to a message left at his law office.

The sanction here was imposed on attorney Reed. (Mike Frisch)

September 29, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bonusgate Disbarment

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney convicted of criminal conspiracy and other offenses.

The attorney served as chief of staff to the Democratic minority whip of the state House of Represeentatives. The misconduct was the subject of widespread publicity in a scheme known as Bonusgate.

Pennlive reported on the conviction

Jeff Foreman, one-time chief of staff to former state House Democratic Minority Whip Mike Veon, was sentenced this afternoon to 11-1/2 to 23 months in the Dauphin County Prison for his admitted role in the Bonusgate scandal.

Judge Richard A. Lewis imposed that sentence on Foreman, 59, of Harrisburg, after defense attorney Royce Morris argued for a probation term.

Lewis ordered Foreman to serve 3 years of probation after completing his prison term. He also ordered Foreman to pay $6,000 in fines and $28,695 in restitution, the amount Foreman received in illegal bonuses for campaign work.

Foreman had pleaded guilty to felony charges of conflict of interest, theft and conspiracy in the scheme by leaders of the House Democratic Caucus to use $1.3 million in taxpayer money to pay staffers for campaign work. He testified for the attorney general's office during the trial of Veon and other Bonusgate defendants earlier this year.    

Lewis agreed with Morris that Foreman had a sterling record of professional and community service before the scandal and had cooperated fully with prosecutors.

However, the judge said he couldn't overlook the fact that Foreman was part of the inner circle that concocted the Bonusgate scheme.

Foreman, who surrendered his law license and has forfeited his state pension, told Lewis that he already has suffered dire harm to his community and professional reputations. "I'm disappointed in myself and the mistakes I made," Foreman said. "My problems are of my own making."

Lewis ordered Foreman to begin serving his sentence at the prison work-release center on  Jan. 4. Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina said he is satisfied with the penalty Lewis imposed.  

Foreman's ex-boss, Veon, is serving a 6-to-14-year state prison term, the most severe sentence yet imposed on a Bonusgate defendant.

(Mike Frisch)

September 29, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Quantum Physics

The New Jersey Supreme Court has rejected the proposed three-month suspension of its Disciplinary Review Board and publicly censured an attorney.

The attorney had a prior disciplinary record and had defaulted on the charges. The DRB denied his motion to vacate the default.

The misconduct involved his failure to safeguard funds and a conflict of interest in a phony real estate transaction. The transaction itself led to criminal charges against the participants but not the attorney.

The court does not explain its decision to ratchet down the sanction other than to say that "censure is the appropriate quantum of discipline for respondent's unethical conduct." (Mike Frisch)

September 29, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 26, 2014

No Sanction For Web Page Specialization Claim

An attorney who had claimed a specialty in maritime personal injury and death cases on his web page has been absolved of ethics charges by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Notably, the investigation into the web page was the result of a google search by disciplinary counsel initiated in an unrelated matter.

The court overturned a reprimand ordered by the Attorney Disciplinary Board, concluding thatthe attorney did not have a "culpable state mind." Further, the conduct created no harm to the public.

Thus, the court held that the claim of specialization did not "rise to the level of sanctionable conduct." (Mike Frisch)

September 26, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Practice Pointer: No Drug Deals With Clients

A North Carolina attorney who purchased prescription pain medication from a criminal client has been charged with ethics violations.

The attorney pleaded guilty to the felony offense of  knowingly maintaining a vehicle resprted to by persons using controlled substances.

The State Bar charges allege that the drug transactions and false statements to police involved professional misconduct.

The attorney has been suspended on an interim basis as a result of the conviction. (Mike Frisch)

September 26, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sex Crime Conviction Leads To Bar Charges

An attorney convicted of criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse has been charged with ethical violations as a result by the Illinois Administrator.

The petition alleges

On or about August 7, 2012, Kelsey E. ("K.E."), a Minnesota resident, was in her hotel room at the W Hotel in Chicago. She had left the door to her hotel room ajar for a friend that she was expecting to arrive. At approximately 2:00 am, Respondent entered K.E.'s hotel room, without permission. Respondent proceeded to push K.E. down on the bed and forcibly hold her down. He fondled her breasts with his hands and mouth. He also vaginally penetrated her by force with his fingers. K.E. was able to kick Respondent off of her. Respondent told K.E. he would be back and then left K.E.'s hotel room. Thereafter, K.E. called the friend she had been expecting and reported the assault. The friend called the Chicago Police and notified hotel security. As K.E. was speaking with Chicago Police officers about the assault, Respondent was seen walking in the hotel hallway on the same floor as K.E.'s room. K.E. identified Respondent as her perpetrator and Respondent was arrested in the hotel.

His trial testimony was reported by the Chicago Tribune

Prosecutors allege that Bergamino, who lived in a condominium building next door to the hotel, took advantage of the fact that the woman left her hotel door propped open for a male friend, sexually assaulting her in the room.

But Bergamino testified he met the woman earlier that night when he made a self-deprecating joke after tripping over a “construction barricade” as the two walked near each other on Ontario Street. They talked for a few more minutes, he testified, and she gave him her room number after he told her his apartment number.

He went to a pub and drank three scotches and a beer, said Bergamino, who admitted he was drunk when he knocked on the door at the woman’s hotel room.

“She opened the door, said ‘Hi’ and led me in,” Bergamino testified. He said they kissed and touched on a bed but did not have sex.

Bergamino denied forcing himself on the woman.

“No, nothing of that sort at all. It was a very consensual engagement, interaction,” he testified.

The Tribune also reported that he was sentenced to a total of six years in prison. (Mike Frisch)

September 25, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Disbarred For Fraud On Japanese Client: Attorney Used Funds For Comic Books And Sports Memorabilia

A felony conviction has resulted in automatic disbarment of an attorney by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

The court noted a prior disciplinary matter

...this Court suspended respondent from the practice of law for two years, and until further order of this Court, for his use of obscene, insulting, and threatening language in correspondence addressed to, among others, his former wife and her matrimonial attorneys, and his filing of a meritless federal lawsuit against his former wife, her attorneys, various judges, and others (see 78 AD3d 9 [1st Dept 2010]). To date, respondent has not applied for reinstatement.

The disbarable crime

Respondent's conviction stemmed from his employment with Tadano, a Japanese crane manufacturer. In January 2009, Tadano hired respondent to be the head of its legal affairs and human resources department. Respondent was responsible for contracting with outside law firms to handle Tadano's litigation and for approving payments for legal services. According to Tadano, respondent never informed the company of his suspension from the practice of law in New York.

In April 2011, respondent filed documents with the Texas Secretary of State to form a Texas corporation, Maio & Cardenas, LLC, a fictitious law firm for which respondent was listed as the registered agent and managing member. From approximately May 2011 to May 2012, respondent caused Tadano to issue checks totaling $9,329,546 to Maio & Cardenas for legal services it never performed. Respondent deposited the checks into an account he controlled and then used the funds to purchase, among other things, artwork, collectible comic books and sports memorabilia. Tadano terminated respondent's employment after learning of his fraudulent conduct.

More from Chron

When authorities raided Anthony Chiofalo's home and storage units after he was accused of embezzling more than  $9 million from his employer, they found hundreds of valuable items including a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a first edition Playboy and the first ever Batman comic book, worth about $900,000.

"He had sports memorabilia and very expensive comic books, that are like bearer bonds because they're hard to trace," said Bryan Vaclavik, a financial fraud consultant. "I think he was buying comic books as an investment and we are trying to locate each and every one of those comic books."

He said there are still comic books missing that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chiofalo, 51, of Spring, appeared Monday in a Harris County court for the first time

Court records show that Chiofalo had hundreds of sports memorabilia collectibles including a boxing robe worn by Muhammad Ali, a signed first edition of Mario Puzo's novel, "The Godfather," and a baseball helmet signed by Pete Rose. Authorities also recovered dozens of signed posters and scores of baseball cards.

(Mike Frisch)

September 25, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Second Bite Where Attorney Defaults In Bar Case

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has imposed the reciprocal discipline of disbarment based on the attorney's disbarment in North Carolina.

The attorney had contended in the D.C. proceeding that he was denied due process in North Carolina and that there were infirmities in the proof of misconduct.

The problem was that he had failed to participate in the North Carolina proceedings

The problem with all these arguments is that respondent may not elect to forgo his disciplinary hearing [in North Carolina] and then complain that certain evidence should have been presented there...While evidence or arguments about what respondent alleges was [his contract paralegal] Driscoll‟s responsibility (for what he refers to as the "train wreck" at his firm) might have affected the Hearing Commission‟s conclusions about the degree of respondent‟s culpability, this was evidence respondent was free to advance at the hearing. Instead, the evidence at the disciplinary hearing was effectively uncontested, and we have no reason "not to respect [the] decision" of the Hearing Commission. (citation omitted)

In reciprocal proceedings, the attorney must show by clear and convincing evidence that an exception to the rule mandating identical sanction has been met.

The court here concluded that the attorney failed to do so. (Mike Frisch)

September 25, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Learned Helplessness" A Mitigating Factor

Last month, the District of Columbia ordered identical reciprocal discipline of a three-month suspension and probation in a matter from Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts proceeding raised the issue of the impact of the attorney's previously undiagnosed "learned helplessness."

Associate Justice Lenk rejected Bar counsel's contention regarding the impact of the attorney's mental health issues for sanction purposes. Bar counsel argued that the Board of Bar Overseers had

erred in considering the respondent's mental illness in mitigation, as the respondent is only in the beginning stages of treatment. Bar counsel appears to challenge any view of a respondent's mental illness as an appropriate factor in mitigation unless the .. respondent can show, essentially, that the course of treatment is at an end and the treatment has been successful.

The court rejected that view.

The imposition of a period of immediate suspension serves to protect he public perception of the integrity of the courts and the bar, even though imposition of a sanction where the misconduct arises from a disability is unlikely to have a deterrent effect on other lawyers. The relatively short period of immediate suspension incorporates the board's determination that the misconduct occurred as a result of the respondent's mental illness, and is unlikely to recur with treatment; thus the cause of the misconduct is a substantial factor in mitigation.

(Mike Frisch)

September 25, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

An Unexpected Client Leads To A Second Suspension

Practicing while serving a disciplinary suspension got an attorney suspended again for a year by the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department.

The circumstances were not entirely unsympathetic

...the respondent testified at the disciplinary hearing that he had anticipated a suspension in connection with the prior disciplinary proceeding, he had started to wind down his practice, and he already had begun training for a new line of work. The respondent admitted that he knowingly appeared for a client on May 18, 2012, after the effective date of his suspension. The respondent asserted that he had formerly represented the client, and the client unexpectedly notified him that she was coming from abroad for an appearance in Family Court. The respondent tried to arrange for another attorney to handle the court appearance, but was unsuccessful. So as to avoid the trip being a waste for the client, whom the respondent knew was of little means, the respondent appeared on her behalf under the belief that a settlement had been reached and all that was needed was for the court to so-order it. As it turned out, on the day of the appearance, the matter had to be adjourned and nothing of substance occurred.In determining the appropriate measure of discipline to impose, we have taken into consideration the aforementioned mitigating circumstances, including the fact that the respondent did not act for personal gain, and the solitary nature of his misconduct. The respondent, nonetheless, knowingly violated this Court's opinion and order dated April 3, 2012. Under these circumstances, the respondent is suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year.

(Mike Frisch)

September 25, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Drinking, Driving In Colorado

A Colorado attorney was suspended for 60 days for misconduct summarized here.

 In January 2013, [the attorney], who was under the influence of alcohol, was involved in an automobile accident. [She] refused any testing of her blood, breath, saliva, or urine. She was arrested and charged. After her arrest, [she] checked into a thirty-day inpatient treatment program. Intake notes from the program indicate that [she] had not achieved any lengthy period of sobriety since 2008, even though she had earlier told investigators for the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel that she was sober from 2008 until late 2012.

In June 2013, [the attorney] pleaded guilty to one charge of driving while ability impaired. This was [her] third DUI-related conviction; she also had been convicted of DUI in 1995 and 2008. [She] was sentenced to 180 days’ work release; mental health evaluation and treatment; a complete victim impact panel; no alcohol or drugs; substance abuse monitoring; payment of fees and costs; and education and therapy. [She] was permitted to complete her work release through Boulder Community Treatment Center. In December 2013, however, [she] refused to participate in a scheduled independent medical examination, and her work release was revoked when she violated the terms and conditions of her residency at the Center by failing to take certain prescribed medicines. She was jailed, only to be released in mid-March 2014.

 Another Colorado attorney was suspended for 30 days and must petition for reinstatement.

 In 1991, [the attorney] was convicted of one count of driving while impaired by alcohol. In 1996, [he] was convicted of one count of driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 or more. [He] believes he failed to report both of these convictions to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.

On November 17, 2013, [the attorney] drove home after consuming alcohol. According to [him], as he made a left-hand turn an oncoming car failed to stop at the intersection, and he swung his car wide and drove up onto the curb, stopping against a light pole. [He] refused to respond to law enforcement questions and instructions, perform roadside maneuvers, or submit to breath or blood alcohol tests. Later, after changing his mind, a preliminary breath test registered [his] breath alcohol content at 0.203. [He] pleaded guilty to one count of driving while ability impaired and was sentenced to one year in jail, all but ninety days suspended pending compliance with two years’ probation. He was also ordered to attend alcohol education sessions and therapy, undergo drug testing, and perform community service.

In both matters, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved conditional admissions of misconduct. (Mike Frisch)

September 25, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Forcible Rape Of Minor Leads To Consent Disbarment

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has accepted the consent disbarment of an attorney convicted of and awaiting sentencing for forcible rape.

The Times Tribune.com had information about the charges

A former Lackawanna County assistant public defender who also specialized in child custody disputes has been charged with raping a 15-year-old Olyphant girl.

In the first encounter last summer, Olyphant attorney Kenneth Andrew Kovaleski, 38, put his hand over the girl's mouth and told her "she had better be quiet," arrest papers filed Wednesday by county Detective Chris Kolcharno and borough police officer Lewis Kline state.

He then pulled off her shorts, kissed her lips and raped her, arrest papers state. When she complained of pain, he again covered her mouth with his hand and said, "I told you to shut up."

Afterward, when she said she was going to tell someone what happened, Mr. Kovaleski said, "No, you're not. I know every single DA in this town and every single police officer. No one is going to believe you," said investigators. The next morning, he acted as if nothing had happened.

The victim, who provided the account of the allegations to investigators at the Children's Advocacy Center in Scranton on July 6, told them he did not use a condom and that it "burned" when she urinated. The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

Over the course of a year, from June 2011 to June 2012, investigators said Mr. Kovaleski would go into the girl's bedroom, masturbate and perform oral sex on her.

Mr. Kovaleski, 216 Old Powder Mill Road, Olyphant, is facing seven felony charges: rape forcible compulsion; involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a person less than 16 years of age; involuntary deviant sexual intercourse forcible compulsion; incest; endangering the welfare of children; unlawful contact with a minor - sexual offense; and aggravated indecent assault with a person less than 16 years of age. He also faces two misdemeanor charges of indecent assault without the consent of others and corruption of minors.

He denied the charges when questioned by Detective Kolcharno at his home with his wife, Joanna, present.  Mr. Kovaleski said the allegations are "crazy," and his wife told the detective that the victim has been diagnosed with a psychosis and is medicated.

The attorney was found guilty by a jury in February of this year. (Mike Frisch)

September 24, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Self-Report Draws Admonition; Funds Held Since 1982

The Vermont Professional Conduct Board had admonished an attorney who had self-reported misconduct that took place in 1982.

The issue arose in a real estate transaction in which the (unnamed) attorney represented the seller. The attorney left funds in the trust account and was aware of the situation from his receipt of monthly bank statements. Unfortunstely, he "took no action to resolve the issue."

The attorney left private practice in 1989 and returned in 1993 with a succession of law firms. He had shredded all his old files in 2013. 

Later in 2013, the attorney learned that the State was holding funds from the trust account. He promptly filed paperwork and secured the funds - a bit less than $700.

Eventually, his client received the funds that had been due for 31 years. Perhaps a new record for the longest time that funds havebeen held prior to disbursement.

The board looked to the ABA standards in imposing sanction. (Mike Frisch)

September 24, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Humble Pie

I have taken the unusual step of deleting a blog post from yesterday expressing concern that six employees of the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility Executive Attorney staff attended an oral argument in the Court of Appeals.

While I stand by the view that the board office is grossly overstaffed and a waste of limited disciplinary resources, that situation is the result of a failure of leadership. It is not a reflection of any shortcomings of the line attorney and support staff.

Staff should not be subject to criticism for attending an oral argument. Indeed, I feel nothing but sympathy for the staff that are employed in the most dysfunctional office that I have ever seen.

My decision to publicly rant on the subject was an error in judgment for which I apologize. (Mike Frisch)

September 24, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Theft Of Bar Association Funds Draws Suspension

An attorney who engaged in cfiminal conversion of funds entrusted as a fiduciary was suspended for two years without automatic reinstatement by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The Marion County Bar Association (the "MCBA") is a local bar association that exists in large part to assist in the professional development of African American attorneys practicing in the Indianapolis area. The MCBA elects and/or appoints officers, including the treasurer, who serves a one-year term. The treasurer of the MCBA serves in a fiduciary capacity.

In 2011, Respondent submitted an application to join the organization and applied for the position of treasurer. Respondent served as treasurer from June 2011 until December 2012. As treasurer, Respondent had signatory authority on the MCBA's checking account at Regions Bank.

Respondent admitted that during her term as treasurer of the MCBA, she misappropriated funds that belonged to the MCBA. She admitted that she converted the proceeds of 30 checks drawn on MCBA's checking account. The memo lines of the unauthorized checks often contained false statements in order to make it appear that the checks were used for legitimate MCBA expenses. Respondent also admitted she converted the proceeds of one debit and the proceeds of 21 counter checks drawn on the MCBA's checking account. The sum of all funds that Respondent admitted she converted was over $9,100.

During her tenure as treasurer of the MCBA, the Respondent was also responsible for preparing monthly financial reports. These reports were distributed to all officers and board members of the MCBA. Respondent falsified the financial reports to conceal her thefts from the MCBA.

Further

Respondent testified that one particular transaction was the impetus for her disclosure of the unauthorized transactions. Respondent had misrepresented to the MCBA that a scholarship donation had been made to the Indiana University-Indianapolis law school when in fact she had taken those funds for her own use. If she paid the school the scholarship donation out of her personal account, the MCBA would not be able to list it as a tax deduction. Thus, she could not correct this misappropriation without disclosing to the MCBA what had happened. She denied that she disclosed her misappropriations only when their discovery was imminent.

The court noted that she had resigned and made full restitution. (Mike Frisch)

September 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fargo Attorney Not Admitted In North Dakota

The North Dakota Supreme Court ordered a one-month suspension of an attorney and barred her from pro hac vice admission

Meidinger was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in October 2006. Although Meidinger has never been admitted to practice in North Dakota, her law office is located in Fargo, North Dakota. Since December 2009, Meidinger has requested and been granted pro hac vice admissions in 17 matters in North Dakota courts. She was previously disciplined for violation of N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 5.5(d).

Because Meidinger has practiced law for more than five years, she is eligible to apply for admission by motion in North Dakota. In an August 2012, letter, the North Dakota State Board of Law Examiners strongly encouraged Meidinger to become licensed in North Dakota because her appearances were more than occasional. Despite that letter, Meidinger has not applied for admission in North Dakota.

The attorney did not answer the summons in the proceeding. (Mike Frisch)

September 22, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brady And Bar Discipline

The Connecticut Appellate Court has affirmed the dismissal of an action brought by an attorney against disciplinary counsel.

The attorney was suspended as a result of the bar case and had sought a new trial.

The issues

On appeal, the petitioner claims that the trial court improperly determined that, as a matter of law, the petitioner was not entitled to a new trial because (1) there was no newly discovered evidence upon which the petitioner could base his claim; (2) the trial court did not render its judgment on the basis of fraud; and (3) the petitioner’s right to due process of law had not been violated. The petitioner also argues that should a new trial be ordered, he is entitled to vacatur of several Superior Court and Appellate Court judgments related to this action that previously were rendered against him.

Reasoning

The gist of the petitioner’s claim is that the hearing was unfair because the respondent effectively suppressed evidence of the September 29, 2006 appraisal. Although we conclude that Brady does not apply in the present case, Brady nonetheless provides some guidance in our evaluation of the due process claim raised by the petitioner...

The court concluded that, even if the Brady doctrine applied, there was no showing of a violation. (Mike Frisch)

September 22, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Northern Expansion Draws Southern Reprimand

The Georgia Supreme Court has accepted a petition for voluntary discipline and reprimanded an attorney who had improperly solicited legal business from Rhode Island clients.

The court

The petition discloses that [the attorney] allowed a non-lawyer office manager to manage the expansion of the firm to Rhode Island, that he did not monitor this employee’s activities, and that in responding to Bar authorities, he relied upon information provided by the employee. He did not obtain any clients from the solicitation letters.

Further, the court cited the attorney's remorse, lack of prior discipline, serious health problems at the time and full cooperation with the Rhode Island investigation.

 The Rhose Island order is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

September 22, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)