Thursday, February 13, 2014
An attorney who had been convicted for using illegal drugs and of a battery committed on his girlfriend should be suspended for two years and until further court order, according to a recent report and recommendation by an Illinois Hearing Board.
The findings on the drug use:
Between at least 2003 and 2006, Respondent resided in Chicago and was employed at various law firms in the Chicago area. (Ans. at par. 1). During this time, the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961, section 720 ILCS 570/402, provided, in part, that it was unlawful for any person knowingly to possess cannabis, cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin.
Between 2003 and 2005, Respondent possessed and used cannabis approximately five times a week. On multiple occasions between 2003 and 2006, Respondent possessed and used cocaine and heroin. Additionally, at some point between 2005 and 2006, Respondent possessed and used crack cocaine.
In May 2006, Respondent moved to North Port, Florida. In 2007 and 2008, the Florida Criminal Code...provided, in part, that it was unlawful for any person to be in actual or constructive possession of heroin and cocaine.
In April 2007, while residing in Florida, Respondent possessed and used heroin in an amount sufficient to cause an overdose; Respondent was hospitalized for at least three hours following the overdose. Then, in July 2008, while residing in Florida, Respondent possessed and used cocaine.
The battery charges involved, in part:
Between June 21, 2012, and October 31, 2012, Respondent and Ms. Underwood continued to reside together in Port Charlotte. At approximately 7:00 p.m. on October 31, 2012, Respondent and Ms. Underwood were present at their home in Port Charlotte with an acquaintance named Michael Daniels. At that time, Ms. Underwood was in the shower when she and Respondent began to argue. During this argument, Respondent, intentionally and against Ms. Underwood's will, threw, poured, or squirted bleach in Ms. Underwood's eyes.
After Ms. Underwood exited the shower, dressed herself, and entered a bedroom, Respondent shoved her several times. Ms. Underwood tried to move past Respondent in order to leave the room, but he grabbed her by the belt, and then bit her on her right side. Respondent continued to shove Ms. Underwood, until Mr. Daniels stepped between them and called 911. Respondent's conduct was intentional and against Ms. Underwood's will.
The attorney had initially answered the bar charges but thereater did not participate in the proceedings. (Mike Frisch)
Dane Ciolino (Loyola-New Orleans, Law) has blogged on the recent letter of warning the DOJ sent the state's supreme court and chief disciplinary counsel about the civil and disability rights of its applicants. The 10-page, supported letter is linked by Dane here. As he quotes it:
[W]e find that Louisiana’s attorney licensure system discriminates against bar applicants with disabilities by: (1) making discriminatory inquiries regarding bar applicants’ mental health diagnoses and treatment; (2) subjecting bar applicants to burdensome supplemental investigations triggered by their mental health status or treatment as revealed during the character and fitness screening process; (3) making discriminatory admissions recommendations based on stereotypes of persons with disabilities; (4) imposing additional financial burdens on people with disabilities; (5) failing to provide adequate confidentiality protections during the admissions process; and (6) implementing burdensome, intrusive, and unnecessary conditions on admission that are improperly based on individuals’ mental health diagnoses or treatment.
Dane adds, "The irrational methods and procedures Louisiana uses to evaluate the character and fitness of bar applicants have long been questionable. It is refreshing to see that someone else has noticed and may—and can—do something to fix them."
My ethics classes have been watching these C&F issues bubble up lately in this state, including complaints to and involvement by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. One student recounts the tale of a friend whose admission was granted conditionally in such a way that her name is published with all the history and conditions. Anyone googling her will quickly find that she self-reported her emotional issues and read the bar's detailing of that and its specific treatment conditions. Had they just admitted her there'd be no public record of her mandatory disclosures on her bar application; by granting conditional admission and publishing it, all the world gets to essentially read her candid C&F form.
This is no way to act professionally when the bar is supposed to be the gatekeeper of professionalism! I agree with Dane that the involvement of the DOJ may stir some serious introspection with the bar apparatus and Court to make its procedures and disclosure comply with the civil rights of the applicants. (Thanks to Lauren Michel and Alston Walker for sending me Dane's link, as well as other students.) [Alan Childress]
An attorney who conditionally admitted misconduct in two matters was suspended for six months with probation on reinstatement by the Arizona Presiding Disciplinary Judge.
One matter involved a boundary dispute between neighbors, one of whom was the attorney's client. The attorney was charged with trespass and sought a "global settlement" that encompassed the crimibal charges against him. The situation created a non-waivable conflict of interest.
The other matter involved a new will that his mother had executed.
After her sudden and unexpected death, the attorney harrassed the attorney who had drafted the will, claiming that the attorney was having a sexual relationship with the attorney's sister. He conditionally admitted that hs conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Mike Frisch)
An attorney who was paid approximately $600,000 over a four-year period to front for an entity that "helped" people facing foreclosure has been suspended for six months without automatic reinstatement by the Indiana Supreme Court.
The attorney accepted a standard $150 fee to delay foreclosure for close to 4000 vulnerable clients and used a "one size its all" approach to the matters. He never met the clients or responded to their legal needs.
In one example cited in the court's opinion, the attorney failed to pursue the fact that the clients were not, in fact, behind on their payments.
Rather than serve the particularized needs of his clients, the attorney merely served as a vehicle to allow the "foreclosure assistance" entities to engage in the unauthorized practice of law. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
A subcommittee of the Virginia State Bar has imposed a public reprimand without terms of an attorney who
worked in concert with one Jesus Padilla, Jr., a nonlawyer who presented himself as a lawyer and as President of "Latin Unity" ... to Members of the Latino community who were in need of criminal or traffic defense representation. [He] also worked with one Edith Mobley, a nonlawyer who presented herself to prospective clients as an attorney and president of "Latinos Unidos."
The nonlawyers quoted and collected legal fees and engaged the attorney.
The attorney did not place advanced fees in escrow and falsely claimed to bar investigators that he had done so.
Among the laundry list of ethics violations was failure to supervise nonlawyer assistants.
He has since ceased to practice law. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, February 10, 2014
The former Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney was suspended for three years for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals for serious misconduct in two criminal matters.
The attorney was admitted in West Virgina in 2002 and had practiced in his father's law firm until he became the prosecuting attorney. He resigned in December 2011.
The court explained that the misconduct in office warranted a significant suspension
Balancing the mitigating and aggravating factors in the instant case, we are convinced that the recommendations by the Subcommittee, including a three-year license suspension, are appropriate. There is simply no justification for permitting Mr. Busch’s ability to practice law to go unimpeded after he engaged in such egregious conduct as a public official. As we have held previously, "[e]thical violations by a lawyer holding a public office are viewed as more egregious because of the betrayal of the public trust attached to the office." ...
We find that Mr. Busch’s pattern of misconduct, coupled with his habit of continuing his dishonest behavior even when provided opportunities to remedy the same, was a detriment to the public office, to the State of West Virginia as his client, to the public who deserved efficiency and protection from the public office, to the legal system, and to the legal profession. For those reasons, we adopt the recommendations as set forth by the Subcommittee.
The Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board has reprimanded two attorneys in a matter that dealt with the meaning of the phrase "individual with whom the lawyer maintains a close familial relationship" exception to the rule that generally forbids an attorney to prepare an instrument that gives a substantial gift to the lawyer or the lawyer's relatives.
The board's letter of admonition states
The Board believes that step-children and a domestic partner would be obvious examples of persons with whom the lawyer maintains a "close familial relationshipfor purposes of the [Iowa rule]. The Board further believes, however, that close familial relationship and close friendship are not synonymous. If the drafters of the ABA Model Rule 1.8(c) - had wanted close friendship by itself to be an excetion to the rule, they would have said so.
The two attorneys practiced in the same firm. One attorney had prepared the instrument from which the attorney benefitted.
The beneficary's mother and brother were "quite close" to the testator and were already beneficiaries from an earlier will. The attorney, by contrast, did not have a longtime friendship with the testator. He received a $75,000 bequest, which he later disclaimed.
The letters may be accessed through this link. The attorneys are Timothy Klima and william Hochstetler. (Mike Frisch)
Friday, February 7, 2014
An attorney's misconduct in the wake of the death of his romantic partner has resulted in an indefinite suspension imposed by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The attorney was employed at a law firm where he began a relationship with a firm associate. At the time, both were married to other persons.
The associate suffered from depression and alcohol abuse. She left the law firm but the relationship continued.
At her family's urging, the associate entered inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse. The attorney supported her in treatment and attended her graduation.
She starting drinking together on the way back from the graduation and they drank together over the next few days.
After a night of drinking
The respondent drove J.A. from the restaurant to her apartment. They left J.A.'s car at the restaurant. As a romantic gesture, the respondent carried her from her car to her apartment. The respondent set J.A. down on the landing inside her front door, in a sitting position, said goodnight, and went to his residence. The landing inside the front door of the apartment is at the bottom of stairs.
The attorney was unable to contact J.A. the next morning. He went to her residence and discovered her lifeless body. She had died after falling down stairs. He went back to the restaurant where they were the night before and moved her car to her residence.
The misconduct involved altering the scene, concealing evidence and false statements
At some point, the respondent...deleted the text message conversation between the respondent and J.A. on the respondent's telephone.
When questioned at the scene by the police officers, the respondent provided false information. The respondent falsely told the police officers that he found her deceased at 11:20 a.m. The respondent also falsely told the police officers that the last time he saw J.A. was at the Plaza the day before at 5:30 p.m. Finally, the respondent falsely told the police officers that they had not consumed any alcoholic beverages together the day before. In addition to the false statements, the respondent failed to inform the police officers that he discovered J.A.'s deceased body at 8:40 a.m., that in an attempt to wake her he had moved her body, that he had retrieved her car from the restaurant, and that he had driven home to change clothes before returning to her apartment and calling for emergency assistance.
The respondent knew that he should have been honest with the investigating officers. The next day, Monday, January 31, 2012, the respondent contacted attorney Tom Bath and told Mr. Bath what had occurred [and] that the respondent wanted Mr. Bath to schedule an appointment with the investigating officers so that the respondent could correct his false statements.
Mr. Bath made the necessary arrangements and on February 1, 2012, the respondent met with the investigating officers and told the officers the truth.
The attorney explained that he was motivated by concerns about the reaction of J.A.'s family.
Remarkably, the Board for Discipline of Attorneys had found that the attorney violated no ethics rules. The Disciplinary Administrator sought disbarment.
A minority of the court would impose public censure because the attorney had promptly recanted the false statements and the misconduct did not impede the police investigation.
The oral argument is quite interesting and is linked here. Much of the argument of Respondent's counsel is devoted to seeking a remand for mitigation evidence if the court found misconduct.
Notably, the attorney follows his counsel to the lecturn and, in effect, testifies at some length. (Mike Frisch)
The Illinois Administrator has filed an amended complaint alleging that a candidate for judicial office made false statements concerning his opponent's work as a public defender:
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 are bound.
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.
The answer is a vigorous denial of all the allegations.
The Respondent alleges that the charges against him are motivated by the fact that he ran as a Republican:
On information and belief, the prosecution here may be instigated for political purposes, with the complainants hoping to use this process to gain political advantage and/or to cover up their own wrongdoing. [Respondent] Duebbert was a Republican candidate for judicial office, and made a strong showing in the 2012 election, including receiving more votes than Lopinot in Monroe, Perry, Randolph, and Washington County (with a final tally of 55.57% to 44.43% in Lopinot's favor). Further, even if Lopinot did not supervise Trentman in his (conflicted) defense of Woidtke, three persons who recently ran for Democratic judicial office were involved in the Woidtke prosecution, and - based upon their roles therein - might have deemed themselves aggrieved by Duebbert's reference to the Woidtke case.
The answer also contends that the speech at isssue was protected by the Supreme Court's decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, February 6, 2014
The husband was receiving disability payments and was obligated to report income. He pleaded guilty to a felony charge.
The attorney was sanctioned for violating Rule 8.4(c).
The court noted that the attorney was suffering from a severe head injury at the time of the misconduct. (Mike Frisch)
The former General Counsel and Chief Administrative Law Judge at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ("IURC") has been publicly reprimanded by the Indiana Supreme Court.
The attorney actively participated in matters and hearings involving Duke Energy. Duke Energy posted an attorney position on its website. He wished to apply for the position, but was told by IURC chairman not to do so "because it was not an opportune time."
A prior IURC executive director who became Duke Energy's president, nonetheless encouraged the attorney to apply for either an attorney or executive position at Duke. He applied for the executive position. The president emailed him, "[h]ang in there, still think this will get done."
The attorney later applied for and was offered the attorney job.
At that point, the IURC chairman gave consent for him to apply and screened him from Duke Energy cases.
The attorney sought an ethics advisory opinion at that juncture but did not provide the information about his earlier negotiations for employment with Duke Energy. A subsequent investigation by the state Inspector General revealed the conflict of interest. As a result, the attorney was fined and banned from future state employment.
The violation was of Rule 1.11(d) for negotiating private employment while a public officer. In mitigation, an internal IURC audit concluded that he did not exert undue influence in decisions involving Duke Energy. (Mike Frisch)
The Ohio Supreme Court has imposed an interim suspension of an attorney as a result of a felony conviction.
The offense was described in this ICE release
Jason C. Grossman, 31, of Westerville, Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of receipt of child pornography, a crime punishable by at least five years and up to 20 years in prison.
According to the investigation, in December 2012, Grossman met a man online who claimed to be the father of prepubescent children. Grossman discussed the possibility of engaging in sexual activity with the man's daughter. Grossman was actually communicating with an undercover task force officer patrolling the Internet.
Grossman scheduled an in-person meeting for the planned sexual activity. When Grossman arrived for the meeting Jan. 9, task force officers arrested him. Officers then executed a search warrant at Grossman's home and seized computers and media storage devices. Forensic examinations revealed Grossman had downloaded approximately 49 images of child pornography from the Internet.
Grossman remains on house arrest until sentencing.
From yesterday's Santa Barbara Independent:
Darryl Genis, Santa Barbara’s most famously and flamboyantly combative defense attorney, had his right to practice law suspended for a 90-day period by the State Bar of California, had his professional license placed on probation for two years, and was ordered to attend anger management counseling from a licensed professional twice a month for the duration. Richard Honn, judge of the State Bar Court, ruled that Genis had engaged in “multiple acts of wrongdoing, bad faith, significant harm to the administration of justice, indifference toward rectification or atonement for the consequences of his misconduct and contemptuous attitude” toward a panel of appellate judges. In rendering his punishment, Honn said Genis’s “lack of insight raises concerns as to whether his misconduct may recur and is particularly troubling to this court.”
Genis, a specialist in DUI defenses, has emerged as one of the county’s best-known attorneys, having won several high-stakes, high-profile cases in recent years in which he’s attacked the personal credibility, integrity, and competence of law enforcement officers, prosecuting attorneys, and at times, the judges themselves. Honn described Genis’s style as “very aggressive,” noting the zealousness with which he pursued his clients’ interests. But in at least two cases, Honn found that Genis went too far, crossing the line of ethical conduct. Honn found Genis guilty of “willful disobedience” for repeatedly ignoring a San Luis Obispo judge’s order to show up in court in 2011 to represent a client charged with driving under the influence. Frustrated by multiple delays in the case, the judge ordered Genis to appear rather than send an associate, as he had at least twice, who was either not prepared or authorized to move the matter forward. Genis knowingly ignored the judge in one instance, Honn said, so he could attend a legal education seminar in New Orleans.
In Santa Barbara, Honn found that Genis ignored Judge Brian Hill’s repeated admonitions during a 2012 case to not ask two Santa Barbara police officers — Aaron Tudor and Kasi Beutel — any questions in front of the jury regarding allegations of perjury. Such questions, Hill had insisted at the time, would serve to improperly prejudice the jurors against the two officers. Genis asked anyway, prompting Hill to impose a $2,000 sanction. “Respondent [Genis] harmed the administration of justice,” Honn wrote. “His failure to obey court orders required the courts to repeatedly admonish him. Honn added that Genis’s insistence that he did not understand the admonitions were “unbelievable and disingenuous.”
But Honn rejected two of the four allegations against Genis filed by State Bar prosecutors. In those instances, Honn found that Genis acted in a good faith — if erroneous — belief that a county prosecutor had committed a misdemeanor. In that case, Genis had threatened to file a misconduct complaint against a prosecutor who’d turned over otherwise confidential legal notes to an attorney taking over a case before the transfer had been authorized by a judge. Prosecutors fumed that Genis acted with malice by filing the complaint, which they saw as an over-the-top intimidation tactic. The judge disagreed.
Genis said he will “almost certainly appeal” the decision, adding, “In the end, I believe I will be fully exonerated.” If not, he said, he would take comfort in having “worked tirelessly as an advocate for my clients.” If he loses his appeal, he said the suspension would allow him to spend time with “my beautiful two children and my beloved wife.” In conclusion, Genis noted that even Judge Hill had described him as “probably the best DUI lawyer on the Central Coast,” and because of his prowess the District Attorney had “gone to extraordinary lengths to try to muzzle me.”
Honn’s verdict must be upheld by a three-judge state bar panel to which Genis can appeal. After that, the California Supreme Court must uphold it as well. Every year, about 250 California attorneys are either suspended or disbarred in disciplinary actions.
Thanks to Patrick O'Donnell for sending this our way. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
In a 4-3 decision, the Missouri Supreme Court extended an attorney's probation with additional conditions.
The dissenting judges would revoke probation and impose the stayed suspension order.
From the court's summary
Because of concerns with prior excessive alcohol use, Nathan Forck was admitted to practice law in Missouri in April 2006 pursuant to a monitoring agreement requiring him to abstain from alcohol and verify that he regularly was attending a support or therapy group. He began working for an attorney with a large elder law and estate planning practice. Following a May 2007 alcohol-related altercation at a bar, Forck was arrested for assault, though the charges later were dropped. Because of his alcohol use, failure to verify his attendance at support group meetings and failure to notify the chief disciplinary counsel of his arrest, the chief disciplinary counsel charged Forck with violating rules of professional conduct. In a joint stipulation, the chief disciplinary counsel recommended that this Court suspend Forck’s license to practice law with no leave to apply for reinstatement for at least six months, stay the suspension and place Forck on probation for two years. This Court accepted the recommendation in December 2007. Forck left the elder law practice and, for about 18 months, worked in a general practice with another attorney. In early 2009, the elder law attorney contacted Forck about taking over his practice. Forck agreed to do so and agreed to retain the attorney’s support staff. Although Forck did not have personal expertise in elder law or Medicaid litigation at the time, relying instead on knowledge he gained from the attorney and the support staff, Forck promoted himself and the firm as experienced in elder law. In 2010, Forck twice asked this Court to release him from probation. Each time, the Court overruled his motion after being advised that the chief disciplinary counsel was investigating complaints against Forck. The parties stipulate that Forck committed five violations in his representation of three clients. Forck and the chief disciplinary counsel jointly ask this Court to extend Forck’s probation for one year and to impose additional terms and conditions beyond those ordered in 2007.
Court en banc holds:
Forck’s conduct, which can be remedied by education and is unlikely to reoccur, warrants an extended term of probation. Forck admits he violated Rule 4-1.1 (competence) and Rule 4-1.5 (fees) in representing certain clients. In the joint stipulation, the parties suggest that application of the applicable standards of the American Bar Association (ABA) and this Court’s rules justify continuing Forck’s probation because the circumstances and factors connected with his earlier issues have changed. The record contains evidence of both aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
Forck’s misconduct arose out of negligence instead of intent to violate the rules and take advantage of his clients. While he knowingly promoted himself and his firm as having expertise in elder law, estate planning and Medicaid litigation, he did so on the misguided, unprofessional practices of the attorney whose practice he took over and the support staff he retained. Forck admits he naively relied on these persons due to their extensive experience in the elder law field. When he learned of the complaints against him, he discharged the support staff and now completes all the legal work himself. Further, all three requirements of Rule 5.225(a)(2)(A-C) to make an attorney eligible for probation have been demonstrated here. He has not committed any misconduct warranting disbarment. It is unlikely he will harm the public during his extended probationary period, as he has maintained his sobriety since 2007 and has undertaken steps to improve his practice. His new relationship with a mentor who is a well-respected elder law attorney and who has agreed to monitor and supervise Forck personally and professionally, his attendance at professional education classes, and reporting requirements will remedy the prior misconduct and permit Forck to perform legal services and practice law in the future without causing the courts or profession to fall into disrepute.
This Court applies progressive discipline when sanctioning attorneys who commit misconduct. While Forck already has received the benefit of an extended probationary period, and the Court could impose the stayed suspension, the chief disciplinary counsel’s recommendation to extend the terms of probation, adding conditions, does impose additional sanctions on Forck and is permitted by the guidelines to the ABA standards and Rule 5.225(f)(2). Moreover, allowing Forck to remain on probation provides him an opportunity to receive additional education, monitoring and support that will improve his law practice and better serve and protect his clients in the future and enables him to make full restitution payments to his harmed clients.
Dissenting opinion by Judge Fischer:
In light of the significant nature of the new violations, the author would revoke Forck’s probation and impose the previously ordered suspension. At no time since his admission six years ago has Forck practiced law without being subject to supervision, and he has demonstrated that allowing him the privilege of continuing to practice law is not worth the risk to the public or the reputation of the legal profession. After he filed his first motion for release from probation, he was advised he was under investigation for additional violations of professional conduct, and yet he failed to comply with the investigation and then filed a second motion for an order of successful completion of probation. At the conclusion of the investigation, he stipulated he committed five new, separate rule violations that caused harm to his clients. Each of these new ethical violations to which Forck admits is a violation of his probation, which required him to abide by the rules of professional conduct. Forck stipulated that his conduct while on probation harmed his clients to the extent that he agreed to pay $22,000 in restitution. Forck’s actions demonstrate he is no longer eligible for the probation imposed for his 2007 conduct. Accordingly, this Court should revoke probation and impose the originally ordered discipline.
The North Dakota Supreme Court has suspended an attorney as a result of criminal charges
The Application asserts that Howe was charged with criminal conspiracy to commit murder in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-06-04 and § 12.1-16-0(1)(a) (a Class AA felony). Documents in support of the Application assert that sufficient information exists that Howe poses a substantial threat of irreparable harm to the public because of the facts attested in the affidavit evidence a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice by murdering a witness.
WDAZ 8 had this report
The North Dakota Supreme Court, in an emergency action Friday afternoon, suspended the law license of Henry Howe because of the murder conspiracy charge he is facing in Walsh County.
Howe, who has had a law license in North Dakota for 40 years and lived and practiced in Grand Forks since 1980 as a criminal defense attorney, was arrested Thursday morning in Grafton, N.D., as he arrived to represent a client in a felony drug case in state district court.
Howe was charged Thursday with conspiring with two convicted drug felons, and a fourth man working as an undercover informant for law enforcement, to kill a female undercover informant who is a key witness in a drug case against Paul Lysengen, who is Howe’s client.
The charge is a Class AA felony with a top sentence of life in prison without parole. Howe bailed out of jail Thursday in Grafton after paying, through his son, $10,000 cash on a $100,000 bond amount.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has imposed a six month suspension of an attorney who had
...on five separate occasions, served subpoenas - four on U.S. Cellular and one on a local credit union - without providing the required notice to Ms. A's attorney or Ms. A., who are parties to the action. On three separate occasions, [the attorney] obtained access to text messages, which he knew or should have known could have contained confidential attirney/client communications protected by [rules of evidence] and confidential health care professional/patient communications... [His] access to and disclosure of Ms. A.'s text messages also accomplished a goal for his client by causing Ms. A. to agree to a resolution of the divorce more favorable to Mr. B. then she would have liked because she desired to end the tension, harrassment, and embarrassment in the community that [the attorney's] and Mr. B.'s access to her text messages had caused.
The attorney has practiced for twenty years without prior discipline. His client was also his cousin.
He was ordered to assemble and turn over to Bar Counsel all copies of the texts and contact federal ans state prosecutors to advise them of the practices of U.S. Cellular. (Mike Frisch)
This tale of traffic and Fort Lee (actually parking and Jersey City) does not involve the Governor of the Garden State.
Rather, the former Chief Judge of the Jersey City Municipal Court (with a law office in Fort Lee) was suspended by the New Jersey Supreme Court for six months.
The Disciplinary Review Board found that the judge
...abused her authority by adjudicating nine parking tickets that had been issued to her "significant other." Respondent either dismissed those tickets outright or wrote "Emergency" on them and then dismissed them, even though she was aware that no emergency had existed. Respondent dismissed the tickets so that her significant other would avoid having to pay the resulting fines.
The judge pleaded guilty to tampering with public records and falsifying records.
The Office of Attorney Ethics sought a two-to-three year suspension. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
The Michigan Attorney Disciplinary Board agreed with a panel and affirmed an order of disbarment in a reciprocal discipline case from Maryland.
The attorney had knowingly and willingly misappropriated fnds while acting as of counsel to a Maryland law firm. He had deceived both his law firm and clients.
The panel rejected the attorney's argument that "the ABA Standards [for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions] somehow render disbarment inappropriate in Michigan."
The board found no basis to impose any lesser sanction as reciprocal discipline. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, February 3, 2014
The Illinois Adminstrator has filed an amended complaint alleging that a State's Attorney appealed to racial prejudice in a first degree murder trial
During Respondent’s opening statement, he made the following statements:
"And you will see, ladies and gentlemen, that there are some, not all-there are many good people in the black community, but basically you will see that there are a few in the black community who refuse to cooperate with the police even when a murder happens right under their nose, and those people have a habit of intimidating, harassing, sometimes threatening anybody who they think is cooperating with the police. That’s what makes this case so difficult, ladies and gentlemen."
Respondent’s argument quoted...above, was improper because it served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice.
During the closing arguments, Respondent made the following statements:
"But I think what is most crucial in deciding this case, in deciding the credibility of Jodie Lacy and Crystal Blye, and in deciding most of the other issues in this case, is to understand the culture of the black community here in Marion.
"Please, you have to keep in the back of your mind how many people in that community feel about law enforcement. You have to understand and keep in mind how they react to the police and to the prosecutors. Sometimes for people like us, that’s hard to understand. People were brought up to believe that the police were their friends; that when something happens, when we are in trouble, that the police are our friends. And that’s where we go to get help from is the police when bad things happen.
"But in the black community here in Marion, it’s just the opposite. Most-for whatever reasons, most of these people were raised to believe that the police and prosecutors are the enemy; that for some reason, we are always out to get them. In their mindset, the biggest sin that you could-that you can commit is to be a snitch in the community. The biggest sin that you could commit is to ever cooperate with the police on anything. It’s a sin to even cooperate when one of your own people gets brutally gunned down and is left to bleed to death.
"And I am not saying that the whole black community is like that, ladies and gentlemen. There are some very good law[-]abiding citizens in that community here in Marion. But the evidence has shown that again, for whatever reasons, there is an intense dislike and even hatred for the police. And this group of people who feel that way make it extremely hard on the people who are law-abiding and want to do what is right and who are willing to come forward and give information that they have when a crime has been committed . . .
"Now, in our white world, ladies and gentlemen, our automatic reaction in that type of situation, if somebody gives a statement to the police and then later on changes their story, the automatic response would be that that person is not trustful and that there is a problem with their credibility.
"But again, please look at their testimony and what they did and what they didn’t do through the eyes of the people who are raised, again, to feel that the police are always against them and that they cannot trust the police."
Respondent’s statements quoted...above, were improper because they served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice.
Respondent’s statements quoted... above, were improper because Respondent argued facts about the "black community" and "our white world" that were not in evidence, and that were based on Respondent’s personal opinion.
The attorney's answer is linked here. He admits that the "white world" comment was not a reference to matters in evidence. (Mike Frisch)
Stayed Suspension For Improper Communication With Judge: Attorney Peeked Through Window At Judge's Wife
A recent order of discipline is reported in the February 2014 edition of the California Bar Journal
[An attorney] was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years’ probation with an actual 90-day suspension and ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court. The order took effect Dec. 13, 2013.
The State Bar Court found [the attorney] culpable of improper communication with a judge. [His] misconduct quickly escalated after he represented the plaintiff in a civil matter in San Diego County Superior Court. Judge Timothy B. Taylor presided over the matter and had rendered a decision in favor of the defendant. In March 2011, the plaintiff moved to appeal the judgment. Although [the attorney] was no longer involved in the matter, he sent a letter to Taylor the following month, which Taylor quickly handed over to his staff after concluding it amounted to improper communication.
A member of Taylor’s staff sent a letter to [the attorney] informing him that the letter constituted an improper communication. Undeterred, the attorney looked up the judge’s home address and sent him another letter there. He later went to the judge’s home and peeked in the window at his wife.