Tuesday, November 19, 2013
A decision from the Ohio Supreme Court is summarized by Chris Davey on the court's web page:
Gallia County Common Pleas Court Judge David Dean Evans has received a one-year stayed suspension from the Ohio Supreme Court for failing to disqualify himself from a case in which he had a conflict with defense counsel.
In a 5-2 per curium decision (not authored by any particular justice) announced today, the court rejected the sanction of a six-month stayed suspension that has been recommended by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline and instead imposed a full year stayed suspensions.
Robert W. Bright practiced before Judge Evans representing indigent criminal defendants for the Gallia County public-defender commission. In the case that resulted in this disciplinary complaint, Bright represented a defendant who had initially agreed to enter into a plea agreement but later changed his mind during the plea hearing before Judge Evans. Moments later, the defendant changed his mind again, and Judge Evans refused to accept the plea. Three days later, Judge Evans again refused to accept the plea agreement even though Bright and the county prosecutor jointly agreed to it.
Bright then filed an 18-page motion requesting that Judge Evans accept the plea agreement and stating that the judge’s refusal to do so was “an abuse of discretion” and “unreasonable and/or arbitrary and/or unconscionable.” Bright also criticized some of Judge Evans’s other courtroom practices.
Judge Evans issued an entry overruling Bright’s motion and removing Bright as counsel in the matter. The entry stated in part:
The Court finds that while Defense Counsel’s attitude toward the Court as expressed in the instant motion may not rise to the level of Professional Misconduct or to the level of being contemptuous, it certainly is not acceptable behavior. By such conduct he has created conflict with the Court whereby in this case or for that matter any other case in the future, when he does not agree with a decision or ruling by the Court, instead of being critical by accusation of being arbitrary, unreasonable, unconscionable or of abusing discretion, he simply may accuse the court of being bias [sic] or prejudice [sic] as it relates to him. The Court must not only avoid any impropriety, bias or prejudice but must avoid any appearance of such. The expressions and attitudes of Defense Counsel as exhibited and announced in the instant motion toward this Court compromises [sic] the Court’s ability to avoid any appearance of bias [or] prejudice, or to be fair and impartial as it relates to Defense Counsel regardless [of] how hard it tries or what strides it makes toward guaranteeing that there would be no bias, prejudice and that it would be fair and impartial.
Judge Evans subsequently filed entries removing Bright as appointed counsel in 63 other criminal cases—even though none of the defendants in any case had requested Bright’s removal as their counsel. The entry in each case stated that “Attorney Robert W. Bright is relieved of further obligation due to the conflict he has created with the Court” and “due to the Court’s inquiry to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Supreme Court of Ohio regarding Mr. Bright’s conduct.”
Judge Evans’s actions removed Bright’s entire caseload, and within a month of the judge’s entries, the Gallia County public defender terminated Bright’s employment, reasoning that it had “no other options,” since Bright could not practice in Judge Evans’s courtroom. Disciplinary counsel ultimately decided against filing any charges against Bright based on Judge Evans’s grievance.
The Ohio State Bar Association brought a complaint against Judge Evans. The parties submitted a consent-to-discipline agreement recommending that Judge Evans be publicly reprimanded. The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline rejected the agreement and remanded the matter for further proceedings before a three-member panel of the board. On remand, the parties waived a hearing and submitted stipulations of fact and misconduct and jointly recommended a stayed six-month suspension. The panel, and later the board, adopted the parties’ stipulations and recommended sanction. No objections were filed before the Supreme Court.
All parties agreed that Judge Evans’s conduct violated Jud.Cond.R. 2.11 (requiring a judge to disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including circumstances in which a judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s counsel) and Gov.Bar R. V(11)(E) (requiring that all proceedings and documents relating to review and investigation of grievances be private).
In today’s decision, the court wrote: “Given the judge’s serious ethical violations and the significant harm caused by his misconduct, we impose a fully stayed one-year suspension … Accordingly, Judge David Dean Evans is hereby suspended from the practice of law in Ohio for one year, with the entire suspension stayed on the condition that he commit no misconduct during the suspension. If Judge Evans fails to meet this condition, the stay will be lifted and Judge Evans will serve the entire one-year suspension. Costs are taxed to Judge Evans.”
Joining in the majority were Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, and William M. O’Neill.
Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said that Judge Evans faces a particular set of challenges as a judge in a smaller jurisdiction that should be taken into account in setting the sanction in this case.
“When a judge in a large county has an irreconcilable conflict with an attorney, that attorney’s cases can be assigned to another judge. In smaller counties, especially those like Gallia County that have only one judge in the general division of the court, that simple resolution is not possible,” Justice Pfeifer wrote. “In the circumstances before us, it is more sensible for the attorney to give way than the judge. Judge Evans was elected by the people of Gallia County to serve as their sole judge; however highly skilled, attorney Bright is an at-will employee. Surely, when an irreconcilable conflict prevents them from working on cases, the elected judge should supersede the at-will employee.” Justice Pfeifer said he would impose the original sanction of a public reprimand that had been agreed to by the parties.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell indicated that he would impose the six-month stayed suspension that the parties agreed to after the case was remanded.
The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
An attorney convicted of federal felonies was disbarred by the New York Appellate Division for the Fourth Judicial Department:
Respondent, as in-house counsel to two investment firms, participated in a fraudulent investment scheme that resulted in investor losses exceeding $6 million. This Court has repeatedly held that, "when an attorney uses his law license to commit crimes and to aid another in the commission of crimes, the appropriate sanction is disbarment."
The court found no substantial mitigating factors. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, November 18, 2013
An attorney who ran for a circuit court judge position has been charged with running a false advertisment by the Illinois Administrator:
Between 1980 and 1995, [the attorney's opponent] Judge Lopinot was a part-time public defender for the St. Clair County Public Defender's office, and he had no supervisory duties over other part-time or full-time defenders in that office.
The front side of Respondent's campaign mailer referred to a 1989 case in St. Clair County in which Rodney Woitdke ("Woidtke") had been convicted of murder. The mailer stated that Woidtke spent 12 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit, and it cited an opinion of the Illinois Appellate Court for 5th Judicial District in 2000 that reversed the denial of Woidtke's post-conviction petition and remanded for his case for a new trial, on the basis of a conflict of interest on the part Woidtke's trial counsel, then-Assistant Public Defender Brian Trentman ("Trentman"). Respondent's mailer then stated the following:
"Supervising Public Defender VINCENT J. LOPINOT and his Assistant, Brian Trentman ‘were NEGLIGENT in their representation of Mr. Woidtke in a 1989 criminal proceeding that resulted in his wrongful conviction of murder of Audrey Cardenas.' (Source: Woidtke v. St. Clair County, St. Clair Public Defenders Office, Brian K. Trentman and Vincent Lopinot, No. 02-4223, May 2003) (sic)"
In the above-quoted text, Judge Lopinot's name was in a very large font and all capital letters, while Trentman's name was in a very small font and with only the first letters capitalized. See Exhibit One.
On the mailer, accompanying the above-quoted text, was a photograph of Judge Lopinot that bore the epigraph "NEGLIGENT" and was imposed over a larger photograph of a man whose wrists and mouth were bound with duct tape. See Exhibit One.
Respondent's representations that Judge Lopinot had supervised Trentman in the Woidtke case, and that Judge Lopinot was negligent in the case, were false. Judge Lopinot had no involvement in the Woidtke case in 1989.
Respondent knew that his representations that Judge Lopinot had supervised Trentman in the Woidtke case, and that Judge Lopinot was negligent in the case, were false, or he made the representations with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.
Judgepedia reports that Judge Lopinet nonetheless prevailed. . (Mike Frisch)
An Illinois attorney is alleged to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a court-appointed criminal client and then lied about it to a judge and the Bar.
The complaint alleges that the attorney served as the Marion County Public Defender and was appointed to represent a client who was placed on probation with participation in a treatment program.
The sexual relationship is alleged to have started after the client went into treatment. The attorney thereafter represented her in revocation proceedings.
When allegations surfaced, the complaint alleges
...Judge Mark Stedelin, the resident Circuit Judge of Marion County, and Judge S. Gene Schwarm, the Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, met with Respondent and confronted him with information they had received about Respondent’s relationship with [the client].
During the meeting, Respondent denied having sexual relations with [the client] while [her] case was pending in Drug Court, and told the judges that he began sexual relations with her shortly after she was released from the Illinois Department of Corrections in April 2012.
Respondent’s statement that he did not have sexual relations with [the client] while her case was pending, and that he began sexual relations with [her] in April 2012 was false, in that Respondent began sexual relations with [her] in September 2011, while he was her counsel in case number [redacted]
Respondent knew his statements were false.
On April 22, 2013, Respondent formally resigned his position as Marion County Public Defender.
The petition states that his later false statements to the ARDC were corrected by a truthful affidavit.
Observation: I am a tireless (if often ignored) advocate for transparency in bar discipline and often cite Illinois as a prime example of one of the very best web pages in that regard.
Having said that, Illinois may be the only place where the allegations of misconduct are too detailed. Here, I have redacted the name of the client and question whether the client should be identified by name or case number.
Further, I note that the charges include this:
At the time the sexual relationship began, Respondent was 54 years old and [the client] was 23 years old.
That fact, if proven, may be relevant. Does it need to appear in the charging document? (Mike Frisch)
An admitted attorney who had disclosed a number of past incidents in his Pennsylvania Bar application but misrepresented his disclosures to Villanova School of Law was suspended for a year by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The attorney had a record of five incidents (mostly alcohol-related) and disclosed two in his 2007 application to the law school. The disclosed incidents had taken place around Villanova and he believed that the school had prior notice of them.
He then disclosed the other three on the cusp of graduation.
The school accepted the "amendment" to the application on conditions that he perform 25 hours of community service, discuss the matter with a Dean and contact the bar program for lawyers with alcohol problems.
He then told the bar authorities that the failure to disclose was an unintentional oversight and that he had "completely forgot" to "update" the school application.
The Disciplinary Board found that the attorney "had consciously decided not to disclose [three] incidents...because he believed that [the law school] would not discover that he had omitted those incidents on the Application."
While he had "properly disclosed each incident" on the Application, he misrepresented his state of mind concerning the failures to disclose to the law school and "claims that the misrepresentation was prompted by embarrassment."
The Board: "A suspension of one year...will impress upon Respondent, and other bar applicants, the necessity of complete candor and honesty when completing the Pennsylvania Bar Application." (Mike Frisch)
Friday, November 15, 2013
An attorney who engaged in a conflict of interest by suing a current client for fees was reprimanded by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
It did not help that the ongoing representation was a bankruptcy proceeding and that the fee suit resulted in a wage assignment.
The Disciplinary Review Board evaluated the sanction question
Although compelling circumstances may reduce the measure of discipline to an admonition, we see no compelling circumstances here to warrant such a departure. Respondent and [his law partner] Middlebrooks admitted that they met together to determine how to proceed to collect their outstanding fees from the [clients]. Together, they decided to sue their clients in Superior Court to collect their fees, knowing they were engaged in an ongoing bankruptcy representation...
In aggravation, respndent's actions placed the clients at great risk. Had the fifty-percent (according to [one client]) wage executions been completed, the entire Chapter 13 might have failed and the second mortgage might have been reinstated.
The attorney has no prior discipline. (Mike Frisch)
The New Jersey Supreme Court has censured a criminal defense attorney who interviewed a co-defendant in an armed robbery case without permission of that person's counsel.
The co-defendant had offered a guilty plea and was potentially a witness in the trial, which did not justify or excuse the jailhouse interview on Super Bowl Sunday 2011.
The attorney's story
For his part, respondent testified that, although he did not have [counsel's] consent to communicate with [co-defendant] Jackson, he went ahead and did so anyway because Jackson had become a witness and agent for the State, after he plead guilty, and because, as a zealous advocate for [his client], respondent believed that it was crucial for him to talk to Jackson.
The attorney's testimony that he did not discuss the case with Jackson was "not true," according to the report of the Disciplinary Review Board. The DRB found that Jackson sought to withdraw his plea based on information received from the attorney.
The attorney has no record of prior discipline. (Mike Frisch)
The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney who was employed by the Cook County Sheriff's Office engaged in criminal and dishonest conduct by working as a private lawyer and for a county board while receiving disability payments.
After he sustained injuries in a car accident
Despite being on Injured on Duty status and receiving disability benefits from the Cook County Insurance Benefit Fund from October 2008 to November 2010, Respondent continued to work as a private attorney by representing [four] clients and receiving compensation from those clients during the same time period that he was receiving disability benefits...
The complaint alleges that he also received nearly $40,000 for work as an elected McHenery County commissioner during the disability period.
In or about February 2009, the Sheriff’s Personnel Office began investigating Respondent to determine his level of activity in light of the injuries from which he claimed to suffer. As a part of its investigation, the Sheriff’s Personnel Office conducted surveillance on Respondent which included witnessing him driving. The investigation also revealed that Respondent was then working as a McHenry County Board member and a lawyer while receiving disability benefits from the CCSO.
Now, the charge
Respondent’s conduct in receiving temporary total disability benefits from the CCSO and compensation from McHenry County and from his law practice was dishonest and fraudulent, and Respondent knew the applicable regulations did not allow him to collect disability benefits from the CCSO while getting paid by the McHenry County Board.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
The Florida Supreme Court has rejected a referee's report proposing a 30-day suspension and suspended an attorney for 91 days.
The attorney had been the chair of the tort litigation practice group at the now defunct firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt & Adler.
Rothstein and Rosenfeldt were the only equity partners.
The attorney made false statements in connection with the purchase of a cooperative apartment in New York City. He falsely claimed a 20% equity share in the firm and caused the firm CFO to issue a letter to the co-op board that misrepresented his status and finances.
Reinstatement is not automatic after a suspension of 91 days.
The Sun Sentinel also has the story. (Mike Frisch)
The full Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has raised a single justice's three-year suspension to disbarment as reciprocal discipline for his resignation in Florida.
The respondent was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts on June 7, 1977, and in Florida on November 27, 1984. In 1995, he was indicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), admitting that he had met with an incarcerated client and received from the client a map to a warehouse where 145 kilograms of cocaine were located. The respondent sent that map to another client by facsimile transmission. In June, 1999, the respondent was sentenced to a 105-month term of incarceration, with four years of supervised release to follow. The respondent did not report the conviction to bar counsel in Massachusetts. S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 12(8), as appearing in 425 Mass. 1313 (1997). On November 12, 1999, the Supreme Court of Florida allowed the respondent's petition for disciplinary resignation, and granted him leave to seek readmission after five years. The respondent did not report the discipline to the Board of Bar Overseers (board) or to bar counsel, as he was required to do by S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 16(6). After learning of the conviction and discipline in Florida, on November 23, 2011, bar counsel filed a notice of conviction and petition for reciprocal discipline in the county court. A single justice of this court suspended the respondent from the practice of law for three years, declining to apply the suspension retroactively to the date of his disciplinary resignation from the Florida bar.
The court found no special mitigating factors and concluded:
We conclude that a three-year suspension is markedly disparate from what has been imposed in like circumstances, and that disbarment is appropriate. The order of the single justice is therefore vacated, and the matter is remanded to the county court, where a judgment of disbarment shall enter, effective as of the date of the single justice's order of term suspension.
The case is In re Michael W. Burnham, decided today. (Mike Frisch)
A 2011 graduate of Case Western Reserve University Law School has been denied admission to the Ohio Bar.
Although the Licking County Bar Association had recommended approval of the application, the Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness disagreed but proposed that he be permitted to reapply for the July 2014 bar examination.
The court agreed with the board that admission should be denied, but delayed permission to reapply until July 2018.
The applicant was convicted of second-degree felony of pandering obscenity involving a minor in 2007.
The Kenyon Collegian reported on the charges and provided some family background:
The case has made headlines around central Ohio primarily due to controversy surrounding Daubenmire's father, "Coach" Dave Daubenmire.
The elder Daubenmire was the football coach in London, Ohio, 30 miles west of Columbus when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the school because Daubenmire allegedly started all of the games with a Christian prayer. He is known locally as a "culture warrior" whose ministries include Pass the Salt and Minutemen United, a lobbying organization that counts among its victories a large superstore chain's decision to remove soft-core pornography from their shelves and the removal of a "homosexual bathhouse" from a Columbus neighborhood. Dave Daubenmire also made national headlines when he was arrested protesting the decision to remove Terri Schiavo from her feeding tube by attempting to deliver Schiavo a cup of water.
The elder Daubenmire and his wife released a statement about their son on one of their ministry's websites. "What he has done is shameful, despicable, and repulsive, they wrote. "But he is our son and we love him. We will walk this path together." The Daubenmires also expressed gratitude, saying, "The wound had been exposed. He has come clean. We can finally help him get well."
The court here found him "an unlikely candidate to engage in the conduct that led to his arrest and conviction" as he was raised "in a strict religious household and was a good student and star athlete." He admitted that he began to look at Internet pornography in high school and downloaded pictures of children under eighteen.
His conduct was discovered when his computer malfunctioned and was sent to a repair shop by his father. The repair technician found the files and reported it to authorities. The applicant cooperated with the criminal investigation and pleaded no contest to charges.
The applicant attended law school because he understood that he would be barred from his chosen career as a coach and teacher. He fully disclosed the situation in his law school application and has complied with treatment.
The court decision will permit reapplication after his obligation to register as a sex offender expires. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The Minnesota Supreme Court order indefinitely suspending an adjunct professor who taught a sports law class for sexually harassing a student "he had taught and was supervising in an independent clinic" has been posted.
The attorney had "opposed any public discipline."
Justice Lillehaug dissented, noting that the court's order allows the attorney to seek reinstatement after 90 days. As the "common denominator" of the sexual harassment and subsequent "interference with a law school's and law enforcement's administration of justice" was "the use and abuse of power," a longer suspension should have been imposed.
Unlike the majority order, the dissent describes the misconduct in detail.
Personal note: The attorney's father moved the original Washington Senators to Minnesota. I never have and never will forgive him. It takes all the strength of will I possess to avoid dancing here. (Mike Frisch)
The severe consequences that ensue from failing to respond to a bar complaint in New York are again apparent in an order of disbarment from the Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.
When an attorney fails to respond to a complaint, interim suspension is imposed. If no response is received within six month, the interim suspension matures into a disbarment.
The court described the allegations:
Respondent's misconduct included his failure to satisfy a Civil Court judgment a client obtained against him following the arbitration of a fee dispute. Additionally, respondent failed to cooperate with the Committee's investigation into his conduct.
In the District of Columbia, such misconduct would never be the basis for such a severe sanction. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The Colorado Presiding Disciplinary Judge accepted a conditional admission of misconduct and imposed a stayed suspension of six months, with probation of three years, for misconduct in connection with a client that she had hired
to clean her house and to work on her political campaign.
The summary on the court's web page notes that the attorney (1) never specified her hourly rate in representing the client, (2) violated the conflict of interest rule by posting bond, paying rent and vehicle impound fees that were not litigation expenses and (3) gave conflicted tax advice influenced by the attorney's interest in a tax refund. (Mike Frisch)
The web page of the Idaho State Bar reports a reciprocal disbarment based on a sanction imposed in Oregon:
In the Oregon disciplinary case, Mr. Summer represented a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case in Oregon state court. Mr. Summer failed to timely respond to the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. On a date set for hearing on the summary judgment motion, Mr. Summer failed to appear, but he filed an affidavit pursuant to ORCP 47E, in which he swore, under penalty of perjury, that he had consulted with and retained a qualified expert who was available and willing to testify to admissible facts and opinions necessary to establish a genuine issue of material fact. In Oregon, such an attorney’s affidavit is sufficient to avoid summary judgment, and there is no requirement to include evidence from an expert supporting the attorney’s representation. The defendant’s motion for summary judgment was denied based upon Mr. Summer’s affidavit and a trial date was scheduled.
On the date of trial, Mr. Summer appeared and advised the court that the plaintiffs were not prepared to proceed to trial because he was unable to secure the testimony at trial of any qualified experts who were willing to express opinions in favor of plaintiffs and against defendants. The trial court dismissed the case and retained jurisdiction of the case to investigate the factual basis of Mr. Summer’s affidavit filed in opposition to the motion for summary judgment.
The court granted an order compelling Mr. Summer to be deposed about his affidavit. Without obtaining prior relief from the court or the agreement of defense counsel, Mr. Summer failed to appear for the deposition as commanded by a subpoena. The defendants filed a motion for sanctions and motion to show cause against Mr. Summer for his failure to obey the subpoena. Mr. Summer did not appear in court for that hearing, but faxed a letter to the court on the morning of the hearing notifying the court of the reasons for his absence. In that letter, Mr. Summer referenced a consultation with a doctor related to his affidavit. Subsequently, that doctor executed a declaration establishing that Mr. Summer’s affidavit and a letter to the court contained false and misleading statements about the doctor’s willingness to testify in favor of plaintiff. The Oregon Trial Panel and the Idaho Hearing Committee concluded that Mr. Summer filed an intentionally misleading affidavit, blatantly disregarded court orders, intentionally misled the trial court judge, filed the affidavit in bad faith, and prejudiced the decision making process.
The attorney had argued that reciprocal disbarment would be a "grave injustice." (Mike Frisch)
Monday, November 11, 2013
An Illinois attorney accused of sexual misconduct toward three criminal clients has agreed to disbarmant by consent.
The motion for disbarment of the Administrator recites:
On October 11, 2012, Movant, who was then the Coles County Public Defender, was appointed to represent Celia Lawrence in a pending criminal case in Coles County involving charges of possession of methamphetamine and morphine. On October 11, 2012, following a court hearing, Movant and Lawrence met at Respondent’s office. While at Movant’s office, Movant kissed Lawrence on the lips, rubbed her back, and touched her body over her clothing. Movant invited Lawrence to attend a conference with him in Springfield that weekend. Lawrence left the office. On October 18, 2012, following another court hearing, Lawrence met with Movant at his office. Movant locked the door, kissed Lawrence, and again touched her body over her clothes. Lawrence started to leave and Movant told her to come back the following Saturday "when no one was there." Lawrence left the office, and thereafter retained a private attorney in her case...
On July 26, 2010, Movant was appointed to represent Bobbie Beringer in a pending criminal case in Coles County relating to charges of theft over $300. Movant asked Beringer to come to his office on Saturday, August 14, 2010, for an appointment. After Beringer arrived for the appointment, Movant placed his hand on her legs and rubbed her leg slowly. He also rubbed her neck and shoulders. As Beringer was leaving, Movant hugged Beringer closely. Beringer filed a police report that same day, and Movant later withdrew from her case. No criminal charges were filed...
On August 13, 2012, Movant was appointed to represent Tammy Hamilton in a pending criminal case in Coles Count, relating to charges of theft. Movant asked Hamilton to meet him at his office on Saturday, August 18, 2012. After Hamilton arrived at Movant’s office, he asked her personal questions about her relationship with her boyfriend, and touched her face. Hamilton told Movant she felt weird about him touching her face. Hamilton left the office. After Hamilton missed a court date on August 27, 2012, Movant told her he had covered for her, and that "there are different ways to pay me back." Following a hearing on September 4, 2012, Movant sat with Hamilton on a bench outside the courtroom and touched her thigh, over her pants. Hamilton moved away. On November 5, 2012, following another court date, Movant again sat next to Hamilton on a bench outside of the courtroom and touched her thigh over her pants. Hamilton objected, stood up and left.
Our earlier coverage is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
The Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered a stayed two-year suspension of an attorney with treatment supervised by the Lawyer Assistance Program ("LAP").
One count involved the attorney's neglect of a claim by a former wife that her ex-husband had breached a confidentiality agreement.
He told the client that the reason for delay was that her former husband had a "spy" in the clerk's office. The client did not buy that story.
The attorney delayed in turning over the file and unearned retainer after he was fired.
The other count dealt with the attorney's alcohol problem. He was arrested for DWI and voluntarily entered treatment. He did not follow the recovery center's recommendation for ongoing treatment through the LAP program as he "didn't see any reason" to do so.
The bar learned of the conviction and also received a letter from a judge where the attorney was a public defender "concerning respondent's persistent use of alcohol."
The attorney then returned to his in-patient treatment and has fully complied with his LAP agreement.
The court majority found that probation with conditions was appropriate.
Justice Clark dissented and would require a period of actual suspension under the circumstances. (Mike Frisch)
Friday, November 8, 2013
A former assistant district attorney convicted of marijuana distribution has consented to disbarment in Pennsylvania.
The Penn State Daily Collegian reported on the conviction:
Former Centre County Assistant District Attorney Steve Sloane pleaded guilty to five felonies last Thursday related to charges of distributing marijuana, a spokesperson from the Attorney General’s Office said.
Sloane pleaded guilty to three counts of possession with intent to deliver, one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal use of a communication facility. He will be sentenced Sep. 6, the spokesperson said.
Sloane’s charges came after the Modesto Police Department in Modesto, Calif. intercepted a package on Oct. 26, 2011. The package — which was from a man named Steven Ice, and was addressed to Sloane at his law office — included two ounces of marijuana, 20 hydrocodone pills, as well as a receipt given to the person who shipped it for $250, as previously reported.
Police further discovered text messages exchanged between Sloane and Ice that showed Ice was sending drugs to Sloane in packages.
An attorney who led police on a high-speed chase from Mississippi to Louisiana was convicted of driving while intoxicated. She weaved in and out of traffic at speeds over 80 mph and ran cars off the road.
She eventually stopped and failed to comply with police directives. She sentenced to a stayed six-month jail sentence with probation.
The attorney then violated the probation terms and there is presently a warrant out for her arrest.
The attorney's former tenant reported the conviction to Louisiana bar authorities (she did not) and also alleged that she was addicted to prescription drugs.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ordered a suspension of a year and a day. (Mike Frisch)
In a significant case involving the rights of witnesses in a bar disciplinary proceeding, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that a complaining witness has a right to be represented at a hearing by counsel "for the limited purpose of protecting rights personal to the witness in the proceeding."
The complaint alleged that a client was the subject of sexual misconduct on the part of the attorney. The Attorney Disciplinary Board filed a complaint based on the allegations and a hearing was scheduled before the Grievance Commission.
Counsel for the complainant entered an appearance and sought a continuance. The commission president invoked Iowa rules making bar procedings confidential and concluded that "the absence of her attorney from the hearing would cause no unfairness to [complainant."
The president thus quashed the attorney's entry of appearance in the matter.
The court here granted interlocutory review and reversed the order. The court held that a witness may have counsel present only when testifying.
Counsel cannot make objections or question the witness, other than to prevent a mistatement from entering the record.
The Board supported the position of the witness. Only the accused attorney objected.
I applaud this decision, although I think that all disciplinary proceedings should be public. (Mike Frisch)