Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Permanent Disbarment Proposed For Battering Former Judge

The Ohio Board on Professional Responsibility recommends permanent disbarment for former Judge Lance Mason.

Cleveland.com reported on the underlying crimes

Former Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Lance Mason was sentenced to 24 months in prison Wednesday for beating his wife last year while driving down Van Aken Boulevard with the couple's children in the backseat.

Before delivering her sentence, visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove reviewed images of Aisha Mason's bruised and battered face, and read from a police report that detailed how Mason punched his wife 20 times with a closed fist, smashed her head against the car's center console five times, and continued to beat her, bite her, and threaten her after she got out of the car.

Cosgrove also read from a report that detailed how the couple had separated earlier that year, and that Aisha Mason had asked her husband to attend counseling before she considered getting back together with him.

"There is not one person in this courtroom that doesn't carry a burden with them," the judge said in a courtroom packed with Mason's family, friends and supporters. "But you don't take it out on another human being."

Mason, 48, pleaded guilty to attempted felonious assault and domestic violence on Aug. 13, and his plea deal agreement included that he would serve some time in prison. 

According to Mason's attorneys, he submitted his resignation as judge on Tuesday. The Ohio Supreme Court officially suspended Mason from the bar on Sept. 3 for being a convicted felon. He had been temporarily suspended with pay while his case was pending, and a visiting judge is overseeing his cases. Now that his felony suspension is official, Mason is no longer collecting his salary of $121,000.

As a convicted felon, Mason will not be able to serve as judge in the future, though he could still practice law, depending on the outcome of disciplinary action by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Aisha Mason needed reconstructive surgery on her face to recover from a broken orbital bone. She filed for divorce two days after the incident. She also filed a lawsuit against her husband on July 29 for having caused her mental pain and anguish. Both cases are still pending.

She did not attend the sentencing hearing, though she did send a letter to the judge that was not read in court.

Several people spoke on Mason's behalf during the sentencing hearing, including his sister, Lynn, all three of his attorneys, several local religious leaders and restaurateur Tony George. All portrayed Mason as a good person who made a mistake that he deeply regrets and won't repeat. They said Mason had been dealing with the death of a parent, a child with Down syndrome, and a failing marriage. 

Attorney Fernando Mack, who represented Mason free of charge and attended college with the former judge, told the court that Mason is at his best as a father to his two daughters. The crowd responded loudly with shouts of "Amen," while Mason wiped tears from his eyes.

Mason told the court he takes responsibility for what happened.

"I make no excuses, I mean I beat my wife in front of my kids," he said. "I mourn the harm I did to my family."

The judge noted that Mason can reduce his sentence if he attends counseling and classes while in prison.

As Mason was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, he told the crowd that he loves them and his wife.

"I'm good, I'm strong," he said.

In a statement following the sentencing, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said the conviction is "not a cause for celebration."

McGinty and Mason had served on the bench together as judges. Mason initially asked for a special prosecutor to hear his case because of that, but his request was denied.

"It's a sad day," McGinty said. "He was a good judge and a friend, but he owes society this time. I am confident he will leave prison rehabilitated and will again be an asset to our community."

The Ohio Supreme Court has the final word. (Mike Frisch)

June 14, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process, Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

iphone Misconduct: Bankruptcy Sanction Becomes Reciprocal Censure

A reciprocal public censure has been imposed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department based on sanctions imposed by a the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.

On December 5, 2013, the witness, represented by respondent, appeared for her deposition via videoconference in Miami, Florida, where she lived. She testified that her iPhone 4s had suffered a data loss approximately three days earlier which resulted in erasure of all her text messages, but promised the trustee that she would attempt to recover the lost data. On December 10, 2013, the witness purportedly lost her iPhone 4s and, on December 13, 2013, the trustee filed an emergency motion to compel her to turn over the iPhone. Although the witness paid for respondent's plane ticket to Miami, respondent received no other remuneration for representing the witness.

On December 18, 2013, the bankruptcy court conducted a hearing on the trustee's emergency motion at which respondent appeared telephonically on behalf of the witness, who had informed him days earlier that she had lost her iPhone 4s. Respondent did not inform the court or the trustee that the witness had apparently lost her iPhone, but argued that requiring her to turn over her phone violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The court ordered the witness to produce her iPhone to the trustee on December 26, 2013.

On December 26, 2013, respondent gave the trustee's local counsel an iPhone 5s (as opposed to an iPhone 4s) that the witness had bought on December 10, 2013; this iPhone was not the one the court had directed to be produced. On December 27, 2013, upon motion of the trustee, the bankruptcy court issued an order directing respondent and the witness to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for contempt and spoliation of evidence.

Following a sanction hearing, the bankruptcy court found that respondent had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and that he had made a materially false statement to the court by making arguments against the production of the witness's iPhone 4s and then agreeing to produce such when he knew it was lost, and that his conduct rose "to the level of a fraud on the Court" (In re Brown, 511 BR at 852). The court directed respondent to pay $54,421.03 in sanctions, representing the fees and expenses the trustee had incurred and that were directly attributable to his attempts to recover the lost iPhone 4S. Respondent timely paid this amount. The court also directed the trustee to forward a copy of the sanction decision to the Committee.

Before the Committee Hearing Panel (the Panel), respondent averred that when he produced the witness's iPhone 5s to the trustee's IT expert, he immediately disclosed that it was not the iPhone 4s that the trustee sought. He further averred that no one raised his non-admitted status until the sanction hearing before the bankruptcy court. Additionally, respondent noted, he fully cooperated with and apologized to the bankruptcy court and, to ameliorate his conduct, took 7.5 hours of CLE courses related to ethics and made a $2,500 donation to a pro bono organization in Houston. He also noted that he had promptly paid the $54,000 in sanctions, in [*3]addition to approximately $200,000 in legal fees to local counsel that represented him and the witness before the bankruptcy court. Respondent did acknowledge his misconduct, apologize, and express remorse. At the Texas sanction hearing, however, the trustee's local counsel and IT expert testified that respondent had not, in fact, immediately disclosed that the witness's iPhone 4s had been lost, and the bankruptcy court found that respondent's testimony on this issue was not credible (In re Brown, 511 BR at 853).

The Panel found that respondent's unauthorized practice of law before the Texas bankruptcy court was aggravated by the fact that he had been practicing law for 15 years at the time that he engaged in this misconduct. As to his misrepresentation to the court, the Panel was deeply troubled by respondent's initial failure to disclose to the bankruptcy court that the witness had lost her iPhone4s. Indeed, the Panel noted, respondent presented a vigorous Fourth Amendment argument against the production of the iPhone 4s during a subsequent motion to compel hearing. The Panel found this conduct "dishonest and deceitful." In addition, the Panel found that respondent's material misrepresentations to the court served to delay the bankruptcy process and wasted the resources of the trustee and the bankruptcy court.

Nonetheless, the Panel found mitigation, namely: (1) respondent had no prior disciplinary history; (2) he made good faith efforts to make restitution or rectify the consequences of his misconduct; (3) he incurred and paid monetary sanctions; (4) he expressed remorse; (5) he cooperated with the Committee; and (6) he presented evidence of good character. Thus, the Panel recommended that respondent be publicly censured.

Now, by motion in accordance with former Rules of the Appellate Division, First Department (22 NYCRR) §§ 603.4(d) and 605.15(e)(2), the Committee seeks an order confirming the Panel's findings of fact and conclusions of law and publicly censuring respondent.

The court

Public censure is appropriate here, as respondent's failure to promptly disclose the loss of the correct iPhone and his unauthorized practice of law before the Texas bankruptcy court were isolated instances of misconduct, and are mitigated by his previously unblemished disciplinary history, his prompt payment of significant monetary sanctions, and his admission of wrongdoing and remorse. We find that private discipline is not appropriate because respondent's misconduct involved both misrepresentation to a court and the unauthorized practice of law.

(Mike Frisch)

June 14, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Beyond Tenacity To Truculence" En Route To Disbarment

A recent disciplinary summary from California

A Southern California attorney who claimed State Bar disciplinary proceedings are unconstitutional was disbarred from the practice of law after he ignored and rejected an earlier suspension and probation for disobeying court orders.

Martin Barnett Reiner [#144024], 58, of Beverly Hills, was disbarred April 21, 2017, and ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. In 2014, Reiner was suspended for six months and placed on probation for two years for disobeying three court orders issued by workers’ compensation administrative law judges. He was also required to pay certain sanctions, attorney fees and costs. He was further ordered to comply with Rule 9.20 and file a compliance affidavit attesting that he notified clients, co-counsel, and opposing counsel of his suspension. Reiner never submitted a compliance affidavit. Instead, he asserted that the State Bar disciplinary proceedings and subsequent Supreme Court suspension order were invalid and unconstitutional.

In proceedings leading to Reiner’s disbarment, the hearing judge found Reiner culpable of violating rule 9.20(c). The State Bar Court Review Department affirmed that finding and rejected Reiner’s constitutional arguments as unavailing and an unreasonable interpretation not made in good faith. The court found that Reiner’s repeated willful disobedience of the court order, along with his refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing showed an inability or unwillingness to conform to ethical responsibilities and requirements. It determined that disbarment is the generally appropriate sanction for a willful rule 9.20 violation. 

In aggravation, the court considered the fact that Reiner had previously been subject to discipline and has shown indifference and lack of insight and remorse. Both are significant aggravating factors. Quoting from another case, the court found Reiner’s overall defiance and lack of respect for the discipline process underscored the need to remove him from the profession: “Put simply, [Reiner][has gone] beyond tenacity to truculence.”

June 13, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aboriginal Arguments Draw Temporary Interlocutory Suspension

The standards for an interlocutory suspension are at issue in a recent decision of the Tribunal Hearing Commission of the Upper Canada Law Society

Mr. Bogue was called to the bar of Ontario in 1985. He was not in active practice status from 1987 until February of 2015. There are currently six investigations involving him, stemming from his actions as litigation counsel. It appears that many of his clients are Indigenous people.

On behalf of clients, Mr. Bogue has made submissions that, on their face, are of significant concern because they may hamper the administration of justice and harm his clients’ interests. For example, he has commenced problematic court proceedings against several judges, the Queen and the Prime Minister personally. In multiple proceedings, the documents suggest, the Lawyer has relied on theories that deny the authority of the Canadian federal and provincial governments. He has advised opposing counsel that they cannot act on a judgment from which leave was denied to the Supreme Court of Canada because it was being transferred to an Aboriginal tribunal. He pled in Federal Court that “[o]n July 17, 2013, the Pope issued a Motu Propria dissolving the Corporations of the world” and that Canada is a Crown Corporation “registered as #0000230098 in the corporate capital known as The United States of America Inc., operating in Washington, D.C.” There are numerous other examples.

Courts have expressed concerns about the nature of Mr. Bogue’s submissions. In Steinkey v. Canada, 2017 FC 124 (CanLII), Prothonotary Lafrenière of the Federal Court said at paras. 5 and 8-9:

Notwithstanding the Plaintiffs’ protestations to the opposite, they clearly fall within a class of individuals described in Meads v. Meads, 2012 ABQB 571 (CanLII), 2012 ABQB 571 (Meads) as “OPCA litigants”, who follow a well-known path of illogic, presumption and pseudo-legal rants. The pleading before me is a classic case of a vexatious party seeking to foist on the Crown a unilateral agreement and trust obligations based on nonsensical arguments…

Finally, I note that the Statement of Claim was signed by a lawyer, Glenn P. Bogue, and that Mr. Bogue also filed written representations in opposition to the motion before me. In Meads, Justice Rooke observed in paras. 643-645 that, as an officer of the court, each lawyer has certain duties not only to the client, but also to the justice system as a whole. In particular, it is a lawyer’s duty to not participate in or facilitate OPCA schemes.

I am very troubled to see that Mr. Bogue accepted a retainer to draft and file pleadings which ultimately assist in the implementation of a vexatious litigant strategy. I therefore direct that this Order and Reasons, along with a copy of the Statement of Claim and the parties’ motion materials, be delivered to the Law Society of Upper Canada for review, to determine whether any sanction is warranted against Mr. Bogue.

 In R. v. Anderson, 2016 BCSC 2170, a criminal case, Justice Brown stated at para. 155:

I was particularly concerned when counsel advised that he and his colleague intended to introduce at trial the matters raised in the Memorandum of Fact and Law, including ‘criminal equity.’ Those matters are immaterial to the case and will not be admissible. Counsel’s comment left an impression that counsel was motivated by opportunity to pursue the theories and matters he addressed in the memorandum, which, he advised the court, were authorized and guided by the Clan Grandmother, as opposed to meeting the Crown’s case. He will have to satisfy this court clearly in due course where his representational interests lie.

It was clear from Mr. Bogue’s submissions before us that he continues to actively work on files.

Disposition

  In our balancing of public protection and Mr. Bogue’s interest in having appropriate time to prepare, the following factors were key in tilting the balance in favour of an adjournment on terms:

•                     The allegations are serious and the Law Society’s evidence, considered alone, sets out a strong case for an interlocutory suspension. Based only on the Law Society’s submissions, we accept there is a significant risk of harm to the public and to the public interest in the administration of justice and that an order suspending Mr. Bogue on an interim interlocutory basis would reduce that risk. There is evidence, including comments from multiple judges, to suggest that Mr. Bogue is using litigation techniques that could harm the administration of justice and cause costs and delay to his clients and others.

•                     On the evidence now before us, the risks are significant and would continue during the period of the adjournment. Nothing short of a suspension could adequately address them, given the evidence we have seen. Mr. Bogue acknowledges he is actively representing clients on litigation files, and there is no indication he has stopped the types of approaches alleged here. The possible harm to the administration of justice of these types of tactics is well-recognized, including by this Tribunal: see, for example, Meads, above, Law Society of Upper Canada v. Hosein, 2014 ONLSTH 218 (CanLII) at paras. 17-18, and Law Society of Upper Canada v. Townley-Smith, 2010 ONLSHP 77 (CanLII), at paras. 34-38.

•                     The April 12 rescheduled date for the motion was agreed upon to accommodate Mr. Bogue’s vacation.

•                     The issues to be determined are primarily based on an analysis of the litigation materials Mr. Bogue prepared and do not appear to require complex financial or other analysis. He has been aware of the allegations for some time.

•                     The Law Society acted quickly as the number of complaints and comments by judges about Mr. Bogue mounted in a relatively short period.

•                     Mr. Bogue did not prepare any materials. He has not taken steps other than speaking with two lawyers and he proceeded with his vacation and work on his clients’ files. While there is a right to counsel in Tribunal proceedings, a licensee who wishes to exercise that right must quickly find counsel who is available on an urgent basis when a motion such as this is brought.

•                     The total time he requests to prepare is more than two months, which is too long when an urgent, ongoing risk to the public is alleged.

Considering both substantive and procedural issues, we concluded that the adjournment should be granted on the term that there be an interim interlocutory suspension.

(Mike Frisch)

June 13, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Conflicts And Kelly Commander

The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board agreed with a hearing committee that a former client conflict of interest had not been proven.

After his termination by a homeowners association, the attorney had drafted a letter on behalf of association board member Kelly Commander and then referred her to unconflicted counsel

During his representation of the HOA, Respondent advised it on a variety of legal issues including environmental issues and enforcing various restrictions. See e.g. Ex. ODC-5, ODC-6; Transcript, p. 117. Respondent did advise the HOA regarding bylaws and amendments to them on occasion. ODC-5, ODC-6, Transcript pp. 35-36. However, there is no evidence that he advised the HOA regarding any amendment pertaining to the removal of Board Members. Multiple witnesses testified at the hearing that Respondent did not advise the Board on this subject, nor do the minutes of Board meetings indicate such. Transcript, pp. 37, 71, 116, 142; Ex. ODC-5, ODC- 6, ODC-7, ODC-8, ODC-9. Advising the HOA on various other amendments to the bylaws is not substantially related to his representation of Ms. Commander, which concerned amending the bylaws for a particular purpose - to remove a member of the Board. It is reasonable to, and the Hearing Committee in fact did, disassociate those two topics from each other. ODC argues that Respondent’s representation of Ms. Commander was substantially related simply because Respondent advised the HOA regarding the bylaws in general, regardless of the substance of the advice and its relation to the matter involving Ms. Commander. This argument is not consistent with Walker. As Walker illustrated, the fact that a lawyer is representing a subsequent client against a former client in the same type of matter the lawyer handled for the former client does not alone create a substantial relationship. In that case, the attorney defended the Department of Transportation in road hazard claims, and subsequently represented private plaintiffs in road hazard claims against the Department after his resignation from government service. Walker, 807 So.2d at 59. The Court determined that his cases against the Department were not sufficiently interrelated in fact and substance to any case he worked on for the Department. Id. at 62. Here, Respondent’s representation of Ms. Commander is not so interrelated in both fact and substance to his representation of the HOA that a reasonable person would fail to disassociate them.

 Despite ODC’s assertion to the contrary, Respondent’s decision to refer the matter to Mr. Pierson is not an attempt to use his fellow attorney as a puppet, but rather a step taken to avoid any potential conflict. Respondent independently examined this matter to determine if any conflict existed before taking on the representation. Ex. R01. Despite coming to an independent conclusion that there was not a violation of Rule 1.9(a), Respondent consulted with an attorney specializing in ethics, who informed him that there may be a violation of the Rule, but did not state with any certainty that there had been such a violation. Ex. R05; Transcript pp. 28-31. The Committee noted that consulting with another attorney does not indicate the presence of an actual conflict: “His due diligence in seeking advice as to a possible conflict should not be used against him. To do so would discourage attorneys from seeking outside counsel on ethics and professionalism matters.” Hearing Committee Report, p. 2. After undertaking that effort, Respondent decided to refer Ms. Commander to another attorney to avoid the potential of a conflict. While he perhaps should have referred the matter to Mr. Pierson right away, his failure to do so does not rise to a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

 The board dismissed the charges and assessed costs against the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. (Mike Frisch)

June 13, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Baroni Suspended

Convicted Bridgegate defendant William Baroni has been suspended by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department

Respondent's conviction stemmed from his misuse of his position as Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by conspiring with others, including the Port Authority's Executive Director, to punish the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not endorsing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's re-election bid, by improperly closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, thereby causing the streets of Fort Lee to become clogged with traffic. Respondent and his co-conspirators fabricated and advanced a false story that the lane reductions were for a traffic study so that they could use Port Authority resources and personnel to carry out their scheme, and deliberately ignored inquiries from the Mayor of Fort Lee regarding the closures.

As a result of the conviction

the Committee's motion to deem the offenses of which respondent has been convicted "serious crimes" within the meaning of Judiciary Law § 90(4)(d) and immediately suspend respondent from the practice of law, pursuant to Judiciary law § 90 (4) (f) and 22 NYCRR 1240.12(c)(20(ii), should be granted, and respondent is directed to show cause, before a referee appointed by the Court, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(d) and 22 NYCRR1240.12(c)(i) and (iv), who shall thereupon hold a hearing within 90 days of respondent's release from prison, why a final order of censure, suspension, or disbarment should not be made.

(Mike Frisch)

June 13, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 12, 2017

"This Court Cannot, In Good Conscience, Allow Him To Continue To Represent Clients in This State At This Time"

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has immediately suspended an attorney for his handing of an appeal before it

The respondent represented a party on an appeal from an order of the Superior Court granting declaratory judgment in favor of an adverse party. The appeal was docketed in this Court, but the respondent failed to file a statement of the case as required by Article I, Rule 12A of the Supreme Court Rules of Appellate Procedure.  On May 10, 2017, the Clerk of the Supreme Court sent notice to the respondent that the appeal had been dismissed for failure to timely file his statement of the case, but that the dismissal would be vacated and the appeal reinstated if the statement of the case was filed on or before May 20, 2017. He did not file a statement of the case by that date.

However, on May 22, 2017, the respondent submitted via email to a Deputy Clerk of the Court what purported to be a statement of the case. It is that attempted filing which drew the immediate attention of this Court. The respondent’s attempted filing was rambling, incoherent, and completely failed to address his failure to timely file his statement of the case or set forth any cogent statement of the issues sought to be raised on appeal. Moreover, his filing was replete with scurrilous accusations alleging unethical and criminal conduct by the trial justice and the attorney representing the opposing party. Additionally, the respondent made outlandish allegations regarding the character of each justice of this Court. The respondent has also filed a pleading with the Family Court accusing a judge of that court of being part of a “secret cabal” with a witness in a case pending before him, referred to the judge as having previously practiced at a “Jewish law  firm on what can only be considered skid row,” and alleged that the Family Court judge had “ties to the state and various conspiratorial fringe religious sects.” His rambling pleading made other outrageous allegations regarding the judge’s integrity.

The respondent’s pleadings filed in both courts raise serious questions as to his ability to represent clients competently. We provided the respondent with the opportunity to provide any factual support for any of his allegations. He was unable to provide any bases for his accusations. Moreover, as in his pleadings, his presentation was so incoherent that this Court cannot, in good conscience, allow him to continue to represent clients in this state at this time.

The suspension will remain in place pending a bar investigation.

The Providence Journal reported on earlier bar allegations. (Mike Frisch)

June 12, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Suspension Reduced For Failure To Respond To Seven Bar Complaints

The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board lowered a tri-county hearing panel's 179 day suspension to 60 days for the failure to respond to seven bar investigations over a two-year period.

In Michigan, the failure to answer a request for investigation has been the subject of a body of Board precedent dating back more than 20 years. In a 1987 opinion, the Board issued a warning:

The lawyer who ignores the duty imposed by court rule to answer requests for investigation and formal complaints does so at his or her own peril and, absent exceptional circumstances, an attorney may expect a discipline greater than a reprimand. [Grievance Administrator v David A. Glenn, DP 91186 (ADB 1987) (increasing discipline from a reprimand to suspension of 30 days)].

In subsequent cases, the Board explained that the decision in Glenn "should not be read so narrowly as to deprive the hearing panel of any discretion to consider the imposition of discipline which takes into account all of the factors which are unique to the case before it." Grievance Administrator v Lawrence A. Baumgartner, 91-91-GA; 91-108-FA (ADB 1992).

However, in light of the Court's direction in Lopatin to employ the ABA Standards, the Board began to discuss the continuing vitality of Glenn...

there is simply no authority to impose either a I 79-day or a I80-day suspension under the circumstances of this case. On appeal, the Grievance Administrator cites to two cases involving more than three failures to answer a request for investigation - In the Matter of John D. Hagy, DP-153/82, DP-66/82, DP-99/82, DP-122/82 & DP-128/82 (ADB 1983) and Grievance Administrator v David A. Monroe, 12-20-GA (ADB 2012). The Administrator's reliance on these cases is misplaced, however, because both cases involve discipline imposed for severe misconduct
in addition to the failure to answer a request for investigation. See Hagy, supra (two-year suspension imposed for failure to answer six requests for investigation, plus serious neglect and misrepresentation); Monroe, supra (disbarment imposed for neglecting legal matters and failure to act with reasonable diligence on behalf of seven clients, failure to safeguard client property, making misrepresentations to clients, charging excessive fees, failing to return unearned fees, failure to deposit funds into a trust account, and failing to answer eleven requests for investigation). In the
present case, there are no findings or even allegations of misconduct. More importantly, there are no misrepresentations involved here.

Thus

Based upon the misconduct established, prior Board precedent, and consideration of the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Board finds that a 60-day suspension is warranted. Respondent failed to answer seven requests for investigation, failed to respond to follow-up letters and subpoenas in a timely fashion, and failed to file an answer to the formal complaint. Here, the greater misconduct supports the imposition of a 60-day suspension.

(Mike Frisch)

June 12, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Overcoming The Pain

The Ohio Supreme Court has reinstated an attorney who was indefinitely suspended in 2010.

From the suspension order

In addition to having been a licensed attorney, respondent was a  licensed chiropractor. After over 20 years of chiropractic practice in Youngstown, respondent became a licensed Ohio attorney in 1993. Five years later, respondent graduated from the Grace University School of Medicine in St.
Kitts, but did not complete the United States Medical Licensing Examinations and therefore was never a licensed physician.

Respondent associated himself with two medical doctors doing business under the name Pain Management Associates. After initially consulting
medical doctors at Pain Management, patients returning for follow-up appointments would see respondent, who wrote prescriptions for them on a doctor’s presigned blank prescription form.

Ultimately, respondent was indicted by the grand jury on 118 counts relating to his activities at Pain Management Associates. The counts included engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, drug trafficking, illegal processing of drug documents, and practicing medicine or surgery without a
certificate. A jury found respondent guilty on 98 counts, and respondent served three years in prison.

June 12, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Some Of Them are Complicated And Take A Lot Of Time"

VT Digger reports recent bar charges in Vermont

A Newport attorney could face disciplinary action over allegations of misconduct with three women.

Glenn Robinson allegedly violated a conflict of interest rule in a romantic relationship he had with a woman he represented in a divorce case, according to an 11-page petition.

In addition, Robinson, 54, is accused of sexually harassing two women he employed.

On May 22, a review panel determined there was probable cause to believe Robinson committed five violations of the professional rules of conduct for lawyers. The charges, filed with the Vermont Professional Responsibility Board, involve three different women. The board regulates the legal profession on behalf of the Vermont Supreme Court.

Disciplinary action could range from a private or public reprimand to temporary suspension of a law license, to disbarment, which prohibits an attorney from practicing law for five years.

Robinson denies the allegations, and, in a statement released by his attorney, claims the relationships he had with all three women were “completely consensual.”

Robinson has practiced law since 2000 and is the stepson of former Vermont Attorney General M. Jerome Diamond, and a former lawyer with his stepfather’s firm, Diamond and Robinson in Montpelier. He is the step brother of Josh Diamond, who is the newly appointed deputy attorney general under TJ Donovan who took office in January. Donovan declined to prosecute the Robinson case in 2013 when he served as Chittenden County State’s Attorney.

Glenn Robinson

Glenn Robinson PC logo from Facebook

The next step in the Vermont Professional Responsibility Board process is a hearing before a three-member panel of two attorneys and one non-lawyer. If after a hearing Robinson is found to have violated professional conduct rules, he could face sanctions. The panel’s decision then can go before the Vermont Supreme Court for review.

The petition of misconduct, the document that formally charges Robinson with license violations, alleges that Robinson violated multiple professional conduct rules between 2010 and 2013.

Documents cite interviews with Detective Lance Burnham of the Vermont State Police conducted in 2013.

THE ALLEGATIONS

According to the petition, one woman who worked as Robinson’s assistant for about a year, beginning in early 2012, told police that Robinson subjected her to offensive conduct of a sexual nature, including masturbating in front of her while she was at work. The petition alleges she received paychecks at irregular intervals, between four and seven weeks apart.

Robinson didn’t deny that he masturbated in front of her at his office, but claimed that she had danced in front of him with her breasts exposed and led him on, according to the affidavit. He also said he and the woman had dated.

Robinson told the investigator that his brother, who is also an attorney, drew up a contract setting the terms of the romantic relationship with the woman. In the document, she waived the right to pursue sexual harassment or gender discrimination claims against her employer.

The woman, who had mental health issues that were known to Robinson, claimed she was rushed and “coerced” into signing the contract, according to the petition. Robinson countered that she had adequate time to review it. The board petition alleges that Robinson took advantage of the woman, who was not represented by a lawyer.

Another woman named in the petition first met Robinson when he began representing her in criminal matters in 2003 over the course of a decade without charge. Robinson frequently reminded her that she owed him, the petition alleges. He told the woman that the court wanted her to “do 15 years,” but he had “saved” her, according to the petition. Robinson began employing her in his law office in early 2013, after she was released from prison, documents show.

According to the petition, Robinson warned the woman that he had told the “judge and Probation & Parole” that he would “keep track of her.” Because of that pledge, Robinson insisted that he needed to be with her at all times when she was working in the office, documents show.

She alleges that Robinson subjected her to unwanted sexual behavior in his office, including repeated instances in which he masturbated in front of her, sometimes with her on his lap, the petition says.

Robinson told her about an incident in which he had “sex with a client and her friend on the office conference room table,” documents show. He also characterized her boyfriend as a “loser,” according to the petition.

In a deposition, the woman testified that on one occasion Robinson asked her to bring her 11-
year-old daughter to have lunch at the law office. The child was asked to leave the room when Robinson asked to talk to her mother, documents show. The affidavit quotes the woman saying that Robinson “pushed me up against the desk and started groping me. And I was telling him, you know (child’s name) is here and she could walk in any minute.” At that point, Robinson started masturbating, according to the petition.

Robinson admitted to investigators that he stimulated himself in front of the woman, but, as with the previous case, he said the woman led him on. He alleged that she “would pull off her clothes to excite me and that on a couple of occasions that resulted in me having an orgasm in my pants.”

A third charge against Robinson is related to a relationship he allegedly had for more than a year with a woman he represented in a divorce case. The woman lived in a trailer and was raising five children. According to the petition, Robinson told her she was “the only woman he had ever loved.”

The relationship lasted from early 2011 until June 2012, when Robinson ended it shortly after the divorce proceedings concluded, documents show.

Through the course of the relationship, Robinson allegedly told the woman he would provide for her and allow her to live in his condominium without charge. She agreed to the terms of the divorce offered by the opposing counsel in part with that expectation, according to the petition. She had borrowed money, cashed out a retirement account and decided not to press for child support payments because she believed Robinson would support her, documents show.

She filed a complaint about Robinson’s conduct in February 2013, according to the petition.

When she was asked by Robinson’s attorney why she filed the conduct complaint, she responded that Robinson “used” her.

“He made me promises, and he never followed through,” she told investigators. “Even with the child support, the spousal maintenance, the everything. Nothing. He said he would take care of everything and he took care of nothing.”

The petition alleges he violated a conflict of interest rule in his relationship with the woman.

ROBINSON DENIES ALLEGATIONS

Robinson denied all of the allegations against him, speaking through his attorney Scott McGee, in a statement released last week.

“All allegations are more than four years old and all alleged conduct was completely consensual,” the statement said. “He asks that no judgment be made until the allegations have been adjudicated through a hearing process.”

Robinson continues to practice law, according to the statement. He “looks forward” to addressing the allegations at a hearing, the next step in the disciplinary case process.

McGee said Robinson is not under criminal investigation.

According to an affidavit from the prosecuting attorney in the professional misconduct case, a Vermont State Police investigator conducted interviews with several people concerning Robinson’s conduct. In July 2013, the investigator submitted a report to the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s office, which decided not to prosecute it.

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, who headed the Chittenden County state’s attorney’s office at the time, said Saturday that he referred the case to the special investigations unit in Chittenden County, and after further review, declined to prosecute it. Donovan said it was unclear why the case was referred to his office four years ago.

“We weren’t convinced we would satisfy our evidentiary burden,” Donovan said.

Donovan said he does not know Robinson, and Robinson’s family connections played no role in the decision to drop the case.

REVIEW TOOK FOUR YEARS

Attorney David Sleigh represented one of the women named in the misconduct petition in a criminal case in which she was accused of embezzling funds from Robinson. The case was later dropped.

The resolution of the Robinson misconduct complaint has taken four years. Sleigh said the proceedings have been “protracted and lengthy and unjustified” and reflects poorly on the Professional Responsibility Board.

Jan Eastman, chair of the Professional Responsibility Board, said the case is “a rare circumstance.”

Many claims of misconduct are resolved at an earlier stage in the process before getting to a hearing, which is the next step in the Robinson case, she said.

Eastman, who has served on the board for about a decade, said she believes Vermont’s system for dealing with misconduct functions well.

This case was in part delayed by a change in personnel last year, when the staff charged with investigating claims of misconduct left the post and it remained vacant for several months, she said. The board assigned some cases, including the Robinson case, to outside attorneys until a new disciplinary prosecutor could be brought on board. That position was filled in April, she said.

“I’m not happy with the amount of time it’s taken, but I believe the process is going the way it needs to go … to protect the public,” Eastman said. “I think it’s better to come to an appropriate resolution, if it takes longer, than to have short-changed something.”

She said the case is not typical for the board. In general, she believes the board does a good job of trying to deal with attorneys before serious issues arise. When there are problems, the board does a good job dealing with them, she said.

“Some of them are complicated and take a lot of time,” she said.

(Mike Frisch)

June 12, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Permanent Disbarment For Smoking In A Non-Smoking Room?

A Louisiana Hearing Committee recommends permanent disbarment of an attorney who defaulted on bar charges of criminal conduct and otherwise failed to participate in the proceedings.

There were two charged instances of misconduct.

On September 27, 2014, the attorney was arrested for remaining at the Extended Stay Hotel in Metairie, Louisiana after being asked to leave for refusing to stop smoking in her non-smoking room. 

She pled guilty to a Loud Noise charge.

The second incident took place on November 1, 2014. The attorney was arrested on a warrant and was later convicted of simple assault for her interactions with officers.

The committee

This committee finds the actual arrest (while troubling in and of themselves) is not as alarming as the intolerance that the Respondent has shown for the entire process.

I am a great believer in the duty to cooperate. Are these crimes permanent disbarment worthy?

Notably (and perhaps relevant), the attorney is already subject to a suspension with fitness. (Mike Frisch)

June 12, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Theft Of Millions Draws Disbarment

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted the consent disbarment of an attorney convicted of tax crimes rooted in estate thefts.

The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania described the crimes 

Randolph Scott, 72, of Doylestown, PA, an attorney whose practice included estate and probate matters, was sentenced today to 48 months in prison for defrauding a client’s estate of more than $1.7 million. Scott maintained a law office—Randolph Scott Associates—in Warrington, PA. He pleaded guilty on March 26, 2015 to one count each of mail fraud, tax evasion, attempting to interfere with administration of internal revenue laws, and three counts of failure to file income tax returns.

Between December 2005 and October 2011, while representing the estate of John C. Bready, Scott diverted approximately $1,758,193 of estate funds to his law office accounts. Because the estate was valued at more than $6 million at the time of Bready’s death in 2005, federal law required that a federal estate tax return be filed which would have resulted in approximately $520,351 being paid to the Internal Revenue Service. Scott purposefully failed to file the required form in order to maintain sufficient money in the estate to pay its beneficiaries and to avoid detection of the theft.

After the estate’s executor died in 2009, Scott failed to disclose the death so that the investment account manager would continue to send the executor’s checks to Scott’s law firm. Scott would then forge the executor’s signature and deposit the checks into his law firm’s account. Scott had the successor executor sign a document renouncing the position of successor executor so that Scott could continue to forge the signature of the deceased executor and divert money belonging to the estate.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge J. Curtis Joyrner ordered restitution in the amount of $2,317,917.67, forfeiture of $1,758,193, three years of supervised release, and a $375 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Judy G. Smith.

I am reasonably confidant that this blog has a reader in Pennsylvania who associates the name Randolph Scott with something other than crime. (Mike Frisch)

June 12, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Defective Foundation

An Idaho attorney has been publicly reprimanded for violation of rules governing solicitation of employment.

From the summary on the state Bar web page

This disciplinary case related to Mr. Winward’s communications with sales representatives of a Boise homebuilder and his communications with two homeowners who had purchased homes from that homebuilder. Mr. Winward falsely indicated to the sales representatives that he was interested in buying a home from the homebuilder. He also falsely indicated to homeowners that he represented another homeowner regarding the homebuilder’s allegedly defective foundations. Although not Respondent’s intent, the homeowners understood from their communications with Respondent that their foundations may be defective and that Respondent was offering to provide legal services to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of homeowners regarding the allegedly defective foundations. Bar Counsel considered as mitigation the fact that Mr. Winward sought the advice of counsel regarding his communications with the homeowners.

(Mike Frisch)

June 11, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

He Got The Blues

An attractive new look for the discipline web page of the Idaho State Bar.

A recent case

The Idaho Supreme Court found that Mr. Hanson violated I.R.P.C. 1.7(a) of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to represent a client if there is a significant risk that the representation will be materially limited by the lawyer’s personal interests. The Idaho Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Order followed a stipulated resolution of an Idaho State Bar disciplinary proceeding and related to the following circumstances.

In November 2015, Mr. Hanson communicated with an individual about the purchase of “blues.” He did not purchase the “blues” or any other controlled substances from that person at that time. On December 1, 2015, that person retained Mr. Hanson as counsel in a criminal probation termination case. In December 2015, Mr. Hanson communicated with his client about “blues” and purchased the “blues” from his client, which affected or could have affected his client’s pending probation termination case. In January 2016, Mr. Hanson’s client retained new counsel.

The Disciplinary Order provided that twelve (12) months of Mr. Hanson’s eighteen (18) month suspension is withheld subject to the terms of his two (2) year probation upon reinstatement, with terms include the following: avoidance of any alcohol or drug-related criminal acts or traffic violations; a program of random urinalysis, with provision that if Mr. Hanson tests positive for any tested substances or misses a random urinalysis test without prior approval, the entire withheld suspension shall be immediately imposed; and if Mr. Hanson admits or is found to have violated any of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct for which a public sanction is imposed for any conduct during his period of probation, the twelve (12) month withheld suspension shall be imposed.

(Mike Frisch)

June 10, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Bingo!

The Clarion-Ledger reported on a conviction that led to license revocation by the Mississippi Supreme Court

A Bay St. Louis attorney has been sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling more than $370,000 from a bingo charity in the Cleveland.

Morgan Shands was sentenced Monday in Bolivar County Circuit Court on a guilty plea to conspiracy and embezzlement, Assistant District Attorney Leslie Flint said.

Shands is a former executive director of the state Democratic Party, has been a staffer for elected officials at state and national levels and served as campaign manager for Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes’ unsuccessful bid in 2011 for lieutenant governor.

Circuit Judge Charles Webster sentenced Shands to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 10 years on the embezzlement charge. Webster ordered the prison terms to run concurrently and suspended five years, leaving five to serve.

Shands was taken into custody after his sentencing at the Bolivar County Courthouse in Clarksdale.

A Bolivar County grand jury indicted Shands and his sister, Rachel Shands Buser, in March 2014. The indictment alleged they had embezzled more than $613,000 from the American Legion Post 1776 bingo fund in Cleveland while Morgan Shands oversaw the charitable operation’s finances.

Before the indictment, Shands signed an agreement with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office to repay $370,117 over a period of 10 years. Officials said he quit making payments after his indictment.

His trial had been re-set several times since December 2014. The case against his sister is pending.

Shands had worked for Attorney General Jim Hood, former Attorney General Mike Moore, State Auditor Stacy Pickering and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

He also had worked on campaigns for Wicker , U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.

Shands was admitted to the Mississippi Bar Association in 1993 and had a law office on John Baptiste Street in Bay St. Louis. His status as an attorney is listed as “inactive” on the MBA’s list of lawyers.

Lawyers convicted of a felony are typically disbarred.

(Mike Frisch) 

June 9, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Too Brief

The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney had mishandled an appeal and misrepresented the reasons for its dismissal to the client. 

The attorney handled a divorce matter that had been dismissed in Illinois in light of a pending Wisconsin proceeding. 

On appeal

The brief Respondent filed...did not conform to the requirements of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341 in that the brief was not double-spaced, did not state any nature of the action, did not contain any points or authorities, did not contain any statement of the issue or issues presented for review, did not contain any statement of jurisdiction, and contained no statement facts with record citations. In addition, Respondent’s Certificate of Compliance incorrectly stated that the brief was 31 pages long, when it was in fact only nine pages.

The appeal was dismissed due to the non-compliant brief.

Allegedly, the attorney told the client it had been lost on the merits.

Shortly after December 24, 2015, Respondent informed Colon that her appeal had been dismissed based on the merits of her case, and that her case would need to proceed in Wisconsin. Respondent further explained to Colon that the Appellate Court made the correct decision in finding that the trial court had ruled on her matter correctly.

At the time Respondent informed Colon of the reason for the Appellate Court’s dismissal of her appeal, his statement to her was false because the Appellate Court had entered its order stating that Colon’s appeal had been dismissed with prejudice based on Respondent’s failure to comply with the November 18, 2015 order and filing a brief that violated several sections of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341.

(Mike Frisch)

June 9, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Maine Rules

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court sent a reinstatement petition back to the single justice who had denied the relief.

The court reconsidered its earlier order affirming the single justice's order denying reinstatement.

The court did not reinstate but rather remanded for evidentiary reasons

The record reflects that Jonas has engaged in more than two decades of litigation with his ex-wife during which he was suspended from the bars of three states, jailed for contempt, declared a vexatious litigant, and admonished by a federal court for making frivolous arguments. Nonetheless, he seeks reinstatement to the Maine Bar asserting that, notwithstanding those judgments, he has the requisite character and fitness to practice law.

In this appeal, Jonas challenges the process at every stage of the proceedings, the evidentiary determinations of the single justice, and the justice’s ultimate findings and conclusions. We conclude that there was no error in process at any stage of the proceedings; that Jonas received more than sufficient notice and opportunity to be heard; and that his claims of a failure of due process are without merit. Nonetheless, because we have concluded on this appeal that the evidentiary standard applicable to Jonas’s final de novo hearing was the more expansive “reasonable person” standard, rather than the Rules of Evidence, we remand for the single justice to consider whether to admit the evidence offered by Jonas that she excluded pursuant to the Maine Rules of Evidence and to determine the effect of any newly admitted evidence on her decision.

The court discusses at length the disciplinary history and procedures applicable to reinstatement matters

 Under the rules applicable to these proceedings, when a suspended attorney petitioned for reinstatement to the bar, the process and the petitioner’s burden were much the same as for an initial application, although the applicable evidentiary standards were not explicitly addressed in the rules. Again, the petitioner was the moving party, not the Board of Overseers of the Bar. Because the procedural posture, allocation of burdens, and ultimate consequences of reinstatement proceedings mirrored bar admission proceedings, we conclude that the reasonable person standard of evidentiary admissibility applied to reinstatement proceedings before the Commission and the Board. See M. Bar R. 7.3(j)(5) (providing that a petitioner seeking reinstatement had the burden to show “the moral qualifications, competency, and learning in law required for admission to practice law in this State” (emphasis added)).

 While most of petitioner's claims were rejected

Because the matter was tried with the understanding that the Rules of Evidence applied to the proceedings, the single justice may have excluded evidence that would otherwise have been admissible had the justice had the benefit of our opinion applying the reasonable person standard of evidence. We must therefore remand the matter for the single justice to make findings based on both the existing evidentiary record and any new evidence presented by either party on remand. On remand, the court must consider only (1) the evidence that was explicitly offered and excluded based on the application of the Rules of Evidence and that was not otherwise admitted, and (2) to the extent allowed by the single justice, any evidence of reinstatement or disciplinary actions, further litigation, or other evidence deemed relevant by the single justice that has occurred after the close of evidence in the original trial.

 Justice Alexander dissented

It should be apparent, without any doubt, that the minor items of character, reputation and credibility evidence Jonas claims were excluded by the single justice’s application of the Maine Rules of Evidence should not and cannot make any difference in the previously affirmed result. Such evidence from persons who, it would appear, are unlikely to be aware of the full scope of Jonas’s past practices is not going to make a difference given Jonas’s record of two decades of abusive litigation practices, disregard of his ethical obligations, and disrespect for court orders that formed the basis for the single justice’s decision that we affirmed...

No prejudicial error having been demonstrated, I would summarily deny the motion for reconsideration.

(Mike Frisch)

 

June 8, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Employment Inflation Alleged In Illinois

The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney falsified information in her employment search after her 2015 bar admission

Between June 2012 and June 2014, Respondent was not employed. Between June 2014 and March 2016, Respondent managed a rental house owned by her parents and a house owned by her aunt, but received no salary for the work. On occasion, Respondent was paid by her aunt for specific work on the aunt’s property such as painting, but she was otherwise unemployed.

On March 1, 2016, Respondent submitted an employment application to the Illinois Department of Transportation ("IDOT") for the position of Realty Specialist II in Carbondale, Illinois.

 On the employment application, Respondent represented that between May 2012 and March 2016, she was employed as a "self-employed attorney" working 40 hours per week.

 At no time between May 2012 and March 2016 did Respondent practice law for 40 hours per week.

She also allegedly misrepresented the nature of her work.

And

On April 2, 2016, Respondent submitted a second employment application to IDOT for the position of Realty Specialist III in Dixon, Illinois.

On the application, Respondent represented that between May 2012 and April 2016, she was employed as a "self-employed attorney" working 20 hours per week.

At no time between May 2012 and April 2016, did Respondent practice law for 20 hours per week.

Respondent’s representations that she was self-employed as an attorney between May 2012 and April 2016, and that she worked 20 hours per week as an attorney, were false because she was not authorized to practice law until May 7, 2015, she did not register with ARDC until October 17, 2016, and she did not work 20 hours per week as an attorney between May 2012 and April 2016.

The complaint alleges false resumes and statements to a potential employer. (Mike Frisch)

June 7, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

New Jersey Suspends Stalker Attorney For Six Months

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered a six-month suspension of an attorney for misconduct described in the report of the Disciplinary Review Board.

The court had issued an order to show cause after the DRB proposed a censure. The attorney then agreed to the suspension.  

The DRB

Respondent was a partner in the law firm of Laddey, Clark and Ryan, LLP (LCR) in Sparta, New Jersey, from 2000 to 2014. In March 2014, CD, a former LCR employee who had worked at the law firm for a brief time in 2005, reported to the law firm that respondent had been stalking and harassing her.

LCR immediately opened an investigation into the allegations, the results of which are contained in an April i0, 2014 confidential report that is not a part of the record. As a result of its investigation, LCR directed respondent to cease all communications with CD and prohibited him from using LCR’s computers and e-mail system to communicate with her. Respondent agreed to these conditions.

LCR’s internal investigation further revealed that respondent also had sexually harassed another law firm employee WB, through a series of e-mails he had sent over the entire calendar year 2011. In those e-mails, respondent used derogatory names, such as "sweet cheeks," when referring to WB. When interviewed by the OAE, WB stated that, although she had not reported respondent’s conduct to anyone, she believed it inappropriate.

On March 21, 2014, prior to the issuance of the LCR report, respondent resigned from the firm and commenced employment with another law firm three days later.

He self-reported to the bar on the threat that LCR would report him if he failed to do so.

According to the stipulation, respondent and CD engaged in a brief consensual sexual relationship in 2005. CD was not employed by LCR at the time. Afterward, the two remained social friends until the end of 2009, when CD indicated to respondent that she no longer wanted him to communicate with her.

When she did so, he reacted

Despite CD’s July 13, 2011 e-mail admonition, respondent continued to send her unwanted and unsolicited correspondence. A number of the e-mails asked CD to go to lunch or for drinks after work. The e-mails were variously offensive, insulting, and demeaning. They were often sexual in nature, containing references to CD as a love doll, sex toy, love kitten, sweetie pie, lover, sweetheart, darling, sweet pea, sweet cheeks, love muffin, sweet meats, love cakes, sweetness, sexy, and sexy girl.

Respondent repeatedly expressed his purported love for CD, even asking her to marry him, but alternately referred to her as "Bitch" or "Asshole." He made offensive remarks about her supposed weight gain, and, in a December 21, 2012 e-mail stated, "All I want for Christmas is to [expletive] your brains out again."

Respondent stipulated that he sent hundreds of e-mails to CD from 2009 to 2015...

Misconduct

Respondent admitted to sexually harassing CD and WB, two female employees of LCR. He demeaned them, particularly CD, in e-mails in which he used misogynist language and extended crude invitations to drink, dine, vacation and engage in sex with him. None of respondent’s overtures, contained in "hundreds" of emails, were welcomed, and in CD’s case, continued for years after a brief 2005 relationship. Respondent continued to send the e-mails even after CD explicitly directed communicating with her.  He disregarded his law firm’s contemporaneous directive. in July 2012, that he stop communicating with CD. He disregarded the Sparta police sergeant’s 2014 admonition to cease his communications with her. He even sent CD an e-mail in 2015 from his Sandyston Township municipal e-mail account, which was available to him for official court business as that township’s municipal attorney. Thus, respondent is guilty of sexual harassment...

He also lied in the bar case.

According to the DRB, the sanction should be a censure

Either aspect of respondent’s misconduct -- sexual harassment or lying to ethics authorities -- would merit the imposition of a reprimand. We consider, in aggravation, that respondent engaged in a years-long campaign of harassment toward CD. He recklessly disregarded opportunities to cease his misconduct, and continued after warnings to stop from the victim, the police, and his law firm.

I must say that I am gratified that the court believes that sexual harassment and lying to ethics authorities merits a sanction north of censure. (Mike Frisch)

June 6, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Censure For Incidents Of Drunken Intemperance

An attorney has been censured for numerous acts of practice-related misconduct by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Many of the violations were alcohol-related

From the letter report of the Disciplinary Review Board comes descriptions of the various incidents of misconduct, for example

In a conference room adjacent to the courtroom, he directed profanities to other attorneys gathered there, including "Who the f**k are you," and "Don’t f**k with me." In court before Judge Appleby, and while wearing sunglasses, respondent explained that he had "his lights knocked out" the previous evening. After the judge left the bench, respondent told the prosecutor that he was "going to the press" about his treatment that day, turning to the other attorneys in the courtroom and addressing them in a vulgar manner.

In another matter the misconduct involved a client

On July 5, 2014, while the motion was pending, respondent appeared at the client’s home, uninvited and intoxicated, and asked to be let in to use her bathroom. Once inside, distraught over an unrelated situation with his fiancee, respondent proceeded to cut his wrists, after which he was rushed to the hospital.

And

respondent appeared before the Honorable James F. Mulvihill, J.S.C. The stipulation reveals neither the client’s name nor the type of case. During that appearance, respondent told the judge, "This man has been in jail, civilly committed, for i0 years for no f**king reason," as well as, "But to give a man i0 years back of his life, f**king pi**es me off.

Mitigation

Given respondent’s obvious efforts to turn his life around after what appears to have been a fairly brief, six-month episode, as well as the lack of any prior discipline in seventeen years at the bar, the Board determined that a censure adequately protects the public. Furthermore, respondent stipulated, and the Board requires, that he submit proof of fitness to practice law by a qualified medical doctor, and proof of attendance in an alcohol cessation program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, for the later of two years or until released from the obligation by the Court.

(Mike Frisch)

June 6, 2017 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)