Thursday, February 27, 2014
A Louisiana Hearing Board has recommended that ethics charges against the spokesperson of the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office be dismissed.
At issue were comments in the wake of a not guilty verdict issued by a judge in a high-profile public corruption case.
The spokesperson commented shortly thereafter to a Times-Picayune reporter:
District Attorney Cannizzaro has fought to eliminate corruption, and unfortunately [Judge] Arthur Hunter thwarted our efforts today.
The bar complainant: Judge Arthur Hunter.
Both parties presented credible witnesses who appeared sincere in their beliefs that the statement either was, or was not, intended as a personal criticism of Judge Hunter. The significance of the statement made by the Respondent is something about which reasonable persons could disagree, however, it is the burden of the [Office of Disciplinary Counsel] to prove a violation by clear and convincing evidence. In this case, it is the opinion of the committee that ODC has not met its burden.
The committee found that the hasty comment "is not condoned" but that it was not knowingly or recklessly false. (Mike Frisch)
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has issued an opinion in a divorce case involving two graduates of Yale Law School.
Both took positions with "prestigious law firms" upon their 1988 graduation. The wife stopped working after pregnancy complications and the birth of twin boys. She was making $120,000 when she stopped working.
The husband by 2010 was earning over $800.,000 per year, which helped fund a lifestyle most of us can only dream about.
It came at a price
The price of Husband’s salary was as much as 2,700 hours of billable work per year, and it apparently put a strain on the parties’ relationship that slowly drove them to minor violence against each other and, in time, completely apart. By 2009, the parties were sleeping in separate parts of the house, and after attempts at counseling failed, the parties abruptly separated on July 29, 2010.
The court noted that the billables trasnslate into seven billed hours every day of the year.
The court affirmed the trial court, rejecting the appeal arguments of both spouses. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Disciplinary Counsel prosecuting the Tennessee judge accused of ethics violations arising from her changing a child's name from Messiah has filed a prehearing memorandum arguing that the name change and a subsequent interview violated judicial canons.
The memo acknowledges that there is no Tennessee case precisely on point and gathers precedents from other jurisdictions that have dealt with judges who inject personal religious beliefs into court proceedings.
The best of the bunch involves a Pennsylvania judge named named Fink:
Among the various charges lodged against the judge in Fink, was the inclusion of a bizarre incident where the judge interrupted a delinquency hearing and called for an in-chambers conference...At this meeting, [he] suggested that the boy might be possessed by demons and that a local priest should examine him to determine whether an exorcism was required. [He] then called a separate meeting with the boy's parents and told them the same thing.
He also had been found to regularly engage in religious commentary during Court hearings of various natures, and admittedly favored criminal defendants who professed belief a belief in Christianity.
We will post any response filed on behalf of the accused judge.
Update: There is now in place an order governing media coverage. The media is, among other things, directed to wear appropriate attire (unspecified) and comport themselves in a manner befitting the dignity of the proceedings. (Mike Frisch)
An attorney who had practiced since 1988 years without a bar complaint made his first disciplinary offense a huge one.
He was disbarred by the Maryland Court of Appeals for misappropriation, false statements and dishonesty.
The court affirmed findings that the attorney had engaged in a seven-year pattern of misappropriation of estate funds facilitated by a series of false statements to a probate court.
Given the dishonesty, and notwithstanding his clean record and significant community activities, the court rejected his plea for an indefinite suspension and imposed the ultimate sanction.
Practice pointer: The trouble all started with an overdraft notice to Bar Counsel resulting from a bounced escrow check. (Mike Frisch)
A recent case involving disciplinary charges against a North Carolina attorney raises an interesting issue regarding alleged unauthorized practice of law.
The State Bar's complaint states that the attorney was suspended from practice in North Carolina as a result of an earlier bar disciplinary complaint. It alleges that, while suspended, she represented a client in connection with the settlement of an insurance claim in Alabama.
The State Bar alleges that this constituted unauthorized practice.
The attorney's answer to the allegations denies any misconduct. Rather, the answer contends that the attorney assisted her nephew in an attempt to resolve an insurance claim without any expectation of compensation.
The answer contends that such assistance does not violate Alabama rules that govern the unauthorized practice of law. (Mike Frisch)
The North Carolina State Bar has filed charges against a former elected district attorney convicted of misconduct while in office.
JDNews.com reported on the offense
The former top prosecutor for part of southeastern North Carolina is pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge that he neglected his duties by allowing an assistant to claim millage for her daily commute.
Former District Attorney Rex Gore pleaded guilty Monday in a plea deal that includes giving up his law license for six months. He was charged with a felony.
The former DA for Brunswick, Columbus and Bladen counties said he agreed to pay former assistant district attorney Elaine Kelley to commute hundreds of miles between her home and work.
Kelley was accused of claiming false business travel expenses. She pleaded guilty and repaid the state more than $14,000 she received for mileage.
Gore was district attorney for nearly 20 years until he lost the 2010 Democratic primary.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
A disciplinary order is summarized on the web page of the North Carolina State Bar:
David J. Turlington III of Boone was censured by the Grievance Committee. Turlington employed other attorneys' names and names of law firms in a keyword advertising campaign through Google's AdWords program. He continued this practice after publication of 2010 FEO 14, which states that an attorney's purchase or use of another attorney's name in an Internet search engine's keyword advertising program is dishonest. The committee also found Turlington knowingly made a false statement of material fact by claiming the inclusion of inappropriate keywords was inadvertent.
An attorney who had two alcohol-related driving incidents prior to his 2009 bar admission picked up another charge after his admission.
The ensuing conviction involved what the court characterized as a "wet reckless" offense.
The California State Bar Court Review Department rejected his contention that the post-admission incident formed no basis for professional discipline and ordered a public reproval:
Importantly, Bravo was on notice that alcohol-related driving convictions are of serious concern to the State Bar because his second conviction impeded his admission to the Bar. Even so, he continued to drink and drive illegally, evidencing a lack of respect for the legal system and an alcohol abuse problem. The criminal court imposed punishment for Bravo’s crime; professional discipline is also warranted. We affirm the hearing judge’s order for a public reproval with conditions as the proper discipline under Kelley to protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession.
The State Bar sought a 30-day suspension. A dissent would impose that sanction. (Mike Frisch)
From the web page of the Tennessee Supreme Court
In a unanimous Opinion released today, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the disbarment of a Memphis attorney from the practice of law for violating multiple Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of clients.
George E. Skouteris, Jr. represented clients in connection with personal injury lawsuits. In six cases between 2007 and 2011, Mr. Skouteris failed to safeguard his clients’ funds in his attorney trust account after settling their cases. Acting on complaints from Mr. Skouteris’s former clients, the Board of Professional Responsibility conducted an investigation into Mr. Skouteris’s alleged misconduct. The Board ultimately filed petitions for discipline alleging violations of 13 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
After conducting a hearing and considering evidence that Mr. Skouteris had failed to safeguard his clients’ settlement funds in multiple instances, a board panel disbarred Mr. Skouteris from the practice of law and conditioned any future reinstatement of his law license on his making restitution to two clients who still had not received their settlement funds. Mr. Skouteris appealed to the Shelby County Chancery Court, which affirmed the board panel’s sanction. Mr. Skouteris then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, alleging multiple procedural irregularities in the proceedings.
In the Opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, the Supreme Court found that the board panel’s decision to disbar Mr. Skouteris from the practice of law was not arbitrary, was supported by the evidence, and that any procedural errors were of no consequence due to the extent and severity of Mr. Skouteris’s misconduct. The Court determined that disbarment was appropriate in light of Mr. Skouteris’s prior disciplinary history, which includes a public censure and two private admonitions, and because misuse of client funds for any period of time is a serious ethical violation.
Read the Court’s Opinion in George Ernest Skouteris, Jr. v. Board of Professional Responsibility, authored by Justice Lee.
The New York Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction of the defendant in a second-degree manslaughter case that involved the death of a child.
The court majority rejected a number of contentions. One issue was whether trial defense counsel was ineffective for failure to object to a Powerpoint presentation made by the prosecutor in closing argument.
A dissent would reverse on that (power) point:
At the end of summation, the prosecutor presented a six-minute Powerpoint, which consisted of one photo of the dead child. converted into a series of slides altered by imposing a caption on each slide, referencing the passage of 30-second intervals. Each slide projected the image of the child fading slightly more with each 30-second interval, until eventually the child's image disappeared and only a white screen remained....
...any doubts as to the emotional responses engendered by the presentation are easily dispelled by viewing the slide show, wherein the picture of a 21 month old child, in her pink pajamas, with white froth on her lips, her body prone and lifeless, is projected over and over, fading slightly with each slide, until all that remains is a white background and the memory of her tiny body. One simply cannot be but moved by this depiction.
The dissent viewed the Powerpoint as "an inaccurate presentation of the moments leading up to the child's death because the slide is a picture of her corpse, and as such is of no assistance to the jury's understanding of the issues..." (Mike Frisch)
Monday, February 24, 2014
A Hot Springs, Arkansas attorney has been suspended on an interim basis by the Arkansas Supreme Court based on a "great public harm" petition.
The Columbus, Indiana Republic noted the suspension
The Arkansas Supreme Court has suspended the law license of Hot Springs attorney Andrea Davis, with whom Attorney General Dustin McDaniel admitted having an extramarital relationship.
A lawyer for Davis said Friday she won't contest the suspension for the time being and that her first priority is getting "her life in order."
Arkansas Business reports (http://is.gd/DdwDui ) the interim suspension order didn't list a reason why she was disciplined.
Court records show Davis is charged in Garland County with two counts of felony theft by receiving and five misdemeanor counts of contempt of court.
The suspension could run from 90 days to indefinitely.
In 2012, McDaniel admitted having an inappropriate relationship with Davis, prompting him to drop out of the governor race.
The court order is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
The Virginia State Bar seeks comment on a proposed revision to the Imputed Conflicts Rule:
Pursuant to Part Six: Section IV, Paragraph 10-2(C) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics (“Committee”) is seeking public comment on a proposed amendment to Rule 1.10 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
This proposed Rule amendment is intended to avoid a situation in which a lawyer avoids the imputation of a conflict of interest by avoiding the knowledge that another lawyer in the firm has a conflict as to the representation. Under the current standard of “knowing” that another lawyer in the firm is prohibited from undertaking the representation, a lawyer can avoid the application of Rule 1.10(a), which would impute a conflict to him, by willfully failing to learn the information that establishes the existence of the conflict. The proposed Rule amendment imputes a conflict if the lawyer “knows or reasonably should know” that another lawyer in the firm is prohibited from representing the client. The proposed amendment adds a new Comment [2a] to explain that the failure to maintain or use a system for identifying conflicts may be deemed a violation of Rule 1.10(a), if proper use of the system would have identified the conflict.
My comment --a good idea. (Mike Frisch)
The Kentucky Supreme Court has denied reinstatement of a disbarred attorney, rejecting the support of Bar Counsel and the Character and Fitness committee as a basis to allow the attorney to resume practice
Though the Character and Fitness Committee was persuaded that Doan had made the requisite showings, this Court must instead agree with the Board of Governors in this instance. Apparently the Committee (and now the Office of Bar Counsel) believe that future safeguards—the conditions to be placed on Doan's reinstatement—would be sufficient to make up for any deficiencies in his proof. But that is not enough. Once reinstated, Doan would be a full member of the bar, with all the rights and privileges enjoyed by other members. Like all other members, he is required to show fitness for those rights and privileges before they can be bestowed. Conditional admissions, while sometime used, are no substitute for the ex ante reinstatement process.
The misconduct that led to disbarment was quite serious and included forging a judge's name on a purported court order. (mike Frisch)
A suspension of not less than two years without automatic reinstatement was imposed by the Indiana Supreme Court for ethics violations in several matters.
Here's one that may catch your eye
When moving his office location in 2009, Respondent threw several client files containing confidential client information into a trash bin, where they remained for several days. A newspaper reporter found information in the files relating to paternity and divorce cases, as well as Social Security numbers and financial records.
He mishandled bankruptcy matters and had local judges who testified as to his practice deficiencies
Judges before whom Respondent practices gave detailed testimony regarding Respondent's deficiencies in 16 different cases. They testified that Respondent has consistently practiced far below the average level of performance for attorneys in Elkhart County, that he has failed to respond to attempts by the judges to help him improve his deficiencies, that he failed to follow through with an agreement to contact the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP") for an assessment, that Respondent's deficiencies have created a tremendous amount of trouble for court staff, and that his conduct hurts his clients and the court system. One judge testified that Respondent shows "a complete lack of respect for diligence and represent clients, professionalism and . . . an utter disregard of court orders.
The Goshen News reported his reaction to the court's order.
The article notes that the attorney's issues started with trash talk
Lehman’s conduct first came into the public eye in April 2009, when the then-owner of Constant Spring, 219 S. Main St., which is next to Lehman’s office, found legal papers in the bar’s Dumpster. The owner, Jason Oswald, told The News that he complained to Lehman about him using his Dumpster and asked for $40 from Lehman for the cost of emptying the trash container. Lehman agreed to pay the fee. In that article Lehman said he was sorry for the incident and had disposed of the files, thinking they would be taken to a landfill. He was clearing old files while moving his office from Main Street to Clinton Street.
The Illinois Review Board has held that an attorney's conversion of entrusted funds was dishonest.
The facts in this matter are not in dispute and are set out in greater detail in the Hearing Board's Report. In summary, in 2010 Respondent represented the seller in a residential real estate transaction. In October 2010, Respondent received a $1,000 check from the potential buyer to be held in escrow as earnest money. Respondent took the check with the understanding that he was to keep the $1,000 in escrow for the benefit of the buyer and seller. Instead, he gave the check to his father and his father deposited the check into his father's personal bank account. Respondent did not maintain a checking account or a client fund account. His father spent the $1,000, by depositing the check and using the proceeds. Respondent testified that over time, his father gave Respondent the proceeds and Respondent used the money for his own business and personal purposes.
Given the undisputed facts, Respondent engaged in the conversion of the escrow funds. The conversion was knowing, not inadvertent. Respondent took no steps to segregate the escrow money; he gave the money to his father. Accordingly, this conversion can be distinguished from those cases cited by the Hearing Board where the attorneys converted client funds by depositing the money for safekeeping and later inadvertently, or through sloppy bookkeeping, used the funds. Cf., In re Timpone, 157 Ill.2d 178, 195, 623 N.E.2d 300 (1993); In re Mulroe, 2011 IL 111378 pars. 22-23. Here, Respondent knew he was not safekeeping the funds when he gave the check to his father. We find that, as a matter of law, Respondent's conversion was dishonest, and he violated Rule 8.4(c).
The board recommended as discipline a four-month suspension followed by probation for a year. If the probation is vuiolated, the board would recommend suspension until further court order. (Mike Frisch)
The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that two marital settlement agreements were noy viodable because the pre se husband did not give an informed written consent, in writing, to his wife's attorney's adverse representation in connection with the drafting of the agreements.
Even if the attorney's conduct violated conflict of interest ethical rules, the court found no basis for relief:
In what was described by the trial court judge who heard Husband’s Motion to Set Aside Marital Settlement Agreements as "a case of buyer’s remorse," Petitioner Shih Ping Li ("Husband") asks us to hold that two marital settlement agreements, executed by him and Tzu Lee ("Wife") in 2005 and 2008, are voidable at his demand. Husband grounds his demand before us on the contention that an attorney, Yu Gu ("Gu"), who assisted the couple earlier in obtaining permanent resident status for Wife in the United States and subsequently served largely as scrivener as to the settlement agreements negotiated between Husband and Wife, violated Rule 1.7, or, in the alternative, Rule 1.9, of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct ("MLRPC"), by failing to obtain Husband’s informed consent, confirmed in writing, to her representation of Wife in connection with the two marital settlement agreements. We hold that, on this record, even assuming (without deciding) that a violation of either MLRPC 1.7 or 1.9 occurred, sufficient grounds to render the agreements voidable are not present.
The husband was a sophisticated party who had had the advice of counsel in connection with a similar agreement with a prior spouse, the agreements advised him of his right to seek the advice of independent counsel prior to signing and "the record revealed no clear example of the adverse use of any of the husband's assertedly confidential information." (Mike Frisch)
Saturday, February 22, 2014
The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed an arbitration award in a claim against an attorney brought by the girlfriend of a former client.
The court held that the former client's claim that the award was procured by fraud was not reviewable.
In doing so, I would respectfully suggest, the court gives cold comfort to former clients who invoke the Bar's arbitration procedures and expect a decent result.
The attorney was retained (through the girlfriend) to represent the defendant on federal drug charges.
At the arbitration, they testified that they understood the fee arrangement was $25,000 if the matter did not go to trial, $50,000 if there was a trial and $75,000 if the trial required experts.
The attorney was paid $75,000 in cash up front. The cash was wrapped in a grocery bag.
The client pleaded guilty on the morning of trial. He sought return of "at least" $50,000. The attorney refused, claiming that the arrangement was for a flat, non-refundable fee.
At the arbitration, the attorney produced a purported fee agreement to support his "non-refundable" claim. The client and girlfriend denied that the agreement was genuine and claimed fraud. The girlfriend asserted that she had not signed it.
The arbitration panel found the fee to be reasonable. While the arrangement may have violated ethical rules governing fees, the panel accepted the attorney' version of the fee arrangement and told the client that he could complain to the bar counsel about the potential ethics rule violations.
The court here found that the courts no authority to review the client's claim that the award was procured by fraud.
The attorney thus gets to keep the $75K (and presumably the grocery bag).
To put it mildly, the Bar's fee arbitration process worked very well from the point of view of the lawyer. For the client, not so much.
The court offered little recourse even where the fee may have violated Rule 1.5. (Mike Frisch)
Friday, February 21, 2014
The Maryland Court of Appeals has ordered disbarment in a matter summarized in the court's headnote:
Court of Appeals disbarred former Deputy State's Attorney who, due to infatuation with a co-worker, used his position while in office to enter nole prosequi dispositions for five traffic citations as personal favors to the co-worker, facilitated the co-worker's taking leave to which she was not entitled, interfered with a criminal prosecution of the co-worker for embezzling funds from the State's Attorney's Office, and deleted protectively emails from the co-worker's work computer after her termination.
The attorney's misconduct took place while serving in Queen Anne's County. The co-worker was his office manager.
The court's 5o page opinion rejects a host of exceptions that the attorney had filed.
Among the allegations was a contention that the Assistant Bar Counsel had facilitated violation of a witness sequestration order. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, February 20, 2014
A Casper, Wyoming attorney named Casper has been suspended from practice for 30 days.
CBS 5 reports on the case:
The Wyoming Supreme Court has suspended Casper attorney Stacy E. Casper from the practice of law for a period of 30 days commencing August 1, 2014.
The suspension arose from a complaint that was filed against Casper by the ex-spouse of one of Casper’s divorce clients, and was submitted to the Wyoming State Bar after Casper filed a lien against property the court had ordered sold in the decree of divorce. Casper had represented the wife in the divorce but had withdrawn from the case based upon her client’s failure to pay more than $18,000 in fees and costs incurred in the case. Casper’s client was left to finish the case without representation. After the divorce decree was issued, Casper filed a lien against the property in an attempt to collect her unpaid fees.
Upon investigation, it appeared that Casper had committed improper billing practices in the case, which resulted in formal disciplinary proceedings being brought against her for charging an unreasonable fee and for filing an improper lien. Casper was also charged with filing confidential documents – her fee agreement and detailed billing statement without the consent of her client – with the lien statement in violation of her obligation of confidentiality to her client.
Before the disciplinary case went to hearing before the Board of Professional Responsibility, Casper expressed genuine remorse and entered into a stipulation in which she conceded that her billing practices violated Rule 1.5 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from charging an unreasonable fee. Specifically, Casper admitted that she abused a provision of her written fee agreement which provided that all time would be billed in minimum increments of one-quarter hour, that in some instances she billed twice for the same activity, that she improperly billed her client for time spent in seeking a continuance that was the result of Casper’s personal scheduling conflicts, and that she did not keep accurate records of her time.
Casper also admitted that her conduct in filing the inaccurate lien statement violated Rule 8.4(c), which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving misrepresentation. She further admitted that in recording with the county clerk her fee agreement along with her detailed billing statement without specific consent of her client, she violated Rule 1.9(c), which prohibits a lawyer from revealing confidential information relating to the representation of a former client except in certain situations not present in this case.
Casper agreed to a 30-day suspension of her right to practice law. A stipulated motion to that effect was approved by the Board of Professional Responsibility, after which a report and recommendation for such discipline was submitted by the Board to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The Court approved the report and recommendation and ordered Casper’s suspension for a period of 30 days commencing August 1, 2014. Casper was also ordered to pay an administrative fee of $500 and costs of the disciplinary proceeding to the Wyoming State Bar.
The court noted that the attorney seeded into her fee agreement a provision that allowed her to bill in not less than quarter hour increments. The court did not condemn this practice but found double-billing and unnecessary charges
In this case, Respondent had specifically contracted with her client to bill in minimum increments of fifteen minutes. This Court does not hold that such an agreement is unreasonable...Respondent in this case billed in fifteen-minute increments, in accordance with the contractual terms, times a reasonable rate. Howver, her practice of billing fifteen minutes for such tasks as signing subpoenas, stipulated orders, and one-page letters demonstrated a complete failure to exercise business judgment, which would have required her to write off unproductive, excessive, or redundant hours.
The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has denied an application for bar admission of an applicant who had a lengthy criminal record that culminated in a death.
This was the third application dating back to 1985.
The applicant's criminal record dating back to the 1970s shows someone who gravitated to society's underside before escalating to crimes that culminated in the brutal death of an elderly woman. Although this criminal history, now several decades old, would not itself be a dispositive consideration as we evaluate the present application, it nevertheless provides something of a template for our analysis of his character and moral fitness. A renewal applicant does not get to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, simply by the passage of time for purposes of our subsequent review. Regardless whether the crime was committed recently or years ago, the applicant was required to adequately address his criminal past.
In order to evaluate his present character for these purposes, it is important to look into why his initial application for admission to the bar was unsuccessful, and to use the record of that proceeding, which necessarily incorporated his criminal record, as a baseline for measuring his rehabilitation as well as his credibility and acknowledgment of responsibility with respect to the current application.
The court recounts the applicant's criminal history leading up to this
On December 12, 1975, 38 years ago, the applicant and a codefendant were arrested for murdering a 69-year-old woman whose apartment they burglarized. This arrest and the applicant's subsequent conviction will be further described below insofar as the applicant's explanation of his participation has a continuing bearing on our decision to reject his application. After separate trials, the codefendant was convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to 15 years to life, although his conviction was later reversed by the Court of Appeals on the basis that his statement had been unlawfully obtained. The codefendant pleaded guilty to robbery in the first degree and thereby avoided a retrial. Faced with a murder charge and his own inculpatory statement as to which suppression had been denied, the applicant pleaded guilty to burglary in the first degree and was sentenced to a maximum term of 20 years. The Second Department affirmed the judgment. He served five years of the sentence and was released to parole supervision in 1980, and received a final discharge from parole in 1986.
From that point, the applicant's personal history took a commendable turn for the better. Making beneficial use of his time after his release, he attended law school and received a J.D. degree in 1985. After passing the bar examination, however, his 1987 application for admission was rejected in substantial part because of his lack of candor and veracity in acknowledging his criminal past, especially about his drug sales and his actions during the burglary that led to the victim's death.
The court describes the path of the various application efforts and agrees with its Committee on Character and Fitness that admission is not appropriate
..,.the application founders principally on two factors. While the killing of a victim during the commission of a felony is an extremely serious crime, the factual circumstances surrounding this case make this crime more egregious. Here, a helpless and defenseless 69-year-old woman awoken from sleep in the sanctity of her home, bound and gagged, most likely dying in extreme terror of an agonizing death as she was slowly asphyxiated while her home was ransacked and property stolen, weighs heavily against conferring on the applicant the privileged legal status that he now seeks. We find the tragedy of the outcome in the present case to require a more exacting accountability.
Secondly, in explaining that death as well as other aspects of his criminal record, the applicant also has displayed a pattern of shifting the blame away from himself. Even if recently he seemed more inclined to accept responsibility, he seemed to do so almost as a matter of formal rote, for criminal conduct that he had freely undertaken. That pattern was most visibly on display for the earlier phase of his application history, and we necessarily look more particularly at his more recent testimony. Yet, we still cannot avoid the observation that the applicant continues to evade a candid and complete acknowledgment of his responsibility for the events that comprise his criminal history. That equivocation diminishes the candor necessary to support this application.
Justice Andrias dissented and would admit
Stripped of hyperbole and rhetoric, the majority is denying petitioner's application based on its belief that he has not been adequately punished for his past crimes, which include his participation in a burglary in which an elderly woman suffocated after she was gagged. However, that is not the test we applied in Wiesner, which focuses solely on whether the applicant currently possesses the character and fitness to practice law. Applying that test, although the nature and character of the crimes committed by petitioner raise serious concerns, petitioner's consistent behavioral pattern of responsibility and societal contributions over the past 32 years, and hisadmissions in his current application and before the subcommittee that he is responsible for his past criminal acts and for his lack of candor in his prior applications, clearly and convincingly demonstrate that petitioner's personal reform and rehabilitation are genuine and complete. Accordingly, because petitioner currently possesses the requisite character and fitness for admission to the bar, I dissent and would grant the application.