Friday, January 22, 2016

Not Wonder Woman

A disciplinary sanction imposed by the Colorado hearing board

Following a hearing, a hearing board suspended Lynda Elizabeth Carter (Attorney Registration Number 41106) for eighteen months. Carter’s suspension took effect on January 20, 2016. To be reinstated, Carter will bear the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that she has been rehabilitated, has complied with disciplinary orders and rules, and is fit to practice law.

Carter, a recent admittee to the bar who operated a solo practice in Pagosa Springs, represented a man charged with misdemeanor sexual assault. She inadequately communicated with him, failed to safeguard his funds, neglected to properly withdraw from his representation, and recklessly converted advance legal fees. She thereby violated Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3) (a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter); Colo. RPC 1.5(f) (a lawyer does not earn fees until a benefit is conferred on the client or the lawyer performs a legal service); Colo. RPC 1.15(a) (2008) (a lawyer shall hold client property separate from the lawyer’s own property); Colo. RPC 1.16(d) (a lawyer shall protect a client’s interests upon termination of the representation, including by giving reasonable notice to the client and refunding unearned fees); and Colo. RPC 8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).

In a second representation, Carter agreed to help a client recover funds from the sale of logging machinery. She did not communicate with the client sufficiently and did not safeguard his retainer, again violating Colo. RPC 1.4(a)(3), 1.5(f) and 1.15(a) (2008).

In addition to this client-focused misconduct, Carter failed to pay a court reporter’s invoice for deposition transcripts. By doing so, she breached Colo. RPC 8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

January 22, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Photo Finish

An attorney convicted of a tax crime has been disbarred by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

On April 14, 2015, respondent pled guilty in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue laws in violation of 26 USC § 7212(a), a felony. The facts underlying her plea are as follows: in an attempt to lower her tax burden and in response to an IRS audit, respondent, inter alia, created false tax documentation which indicated that two individuals, a photographer who performed services in connection with religious celebrations for members of respondent's family and a medical professional who had performed medical services for a member of respondent's family, had provided services to her law practice and had been paid fee income by respondent as a result. In fact, neither of these individuals had provided such services. Respondent presented the false documentation to the IRS during the course of an audit of her and her husband's joint tax returns in order to substantiate fake deductions and expenses.

On July 31, 2015, respondent was sentenced to incarceration for one year and one day, one year of supervised release upon her release from prison, and restitution in the amount of $99,546, representing the tax loss to the federal government. Respondent paid the restitution prior to sentencing. Due to child care issues, the court directed respondent to begin serving her prison sentence after her husband completed his 18-month prison sentence for similarly obstructing the IRS as well as for tax evasion.

Disbarment is automatic in New York for such an offense. (Mike Frisch)

January 22, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Finger

The New Jersey Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney convicted of a robbery offense.

The crimes committed by the attorney are described in the report of the Disciplinary Review Board

According to an April 2, 2009 indictment, on five occasions, between February and April 2008, respondent entered and robbed eating establishments. She was charged with two counts of second-degree robbery...three counts of first-degree armed robbery...and two counts of third-degree aggravated assault...

On April 19, 2010, respondent pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment, admitting that she had robbed McMillan’s Bakery on February 21, 2008... Respondent concealed her finger in a paper bag and told McMillan’s employees "something to the effect of give me the money and nobody gets hurt." The remaining counts of the indictment were dismissed.

The sentencing judge noted that the attorney suffers from physical and mental issues. She was sentenced to five years.

The DRB felt "some measure of sympathy" for the attorney but not enough to warrant a lesser sanction. She had been on disability inactive status since 2002. (Mike Frisch)

January 21, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

That's What Friends Are For

The Indiana Supreme Court has held that a Facebook friendship between a juror and rape victim did not invalidate a guilty verdict

 After Kastin Slaybaugh was convicted of rape, he moved for mistrial on grounds there had been juror misconduct. His motion asserted that in voir dire, a juror had denied knowing the victim or her family, but Slaybaugh discovered that a relative of the victim was a "Facebook friend" of that juror. The trial court ordered the juror deposed. The juror testified she was a  realtor, had more than 1000 "friends" on Facebook—most of whom she had "friended" for networking purposes—but she had not recognized the victim’s name during voir dire, did not recognize the victim when she testified, and did not know the victim or her family. The trial court determined that the juror had been truthful when answering that she had no knowledge of the victim or her family, and denied Slaybaugh’s motion for mistrial. Noting the novel issue involving a juror’s "expansive list of Facebook friends," the Court of Appeals affirmed in Slaybaugh v. State, ___ N.E.3d ___, ___, 2015 WL 5612205, *1 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015).

We agree with the result reached by the Court of Appeals, grant transfer, expressly adopt and incorporate by reference the Court of Appeals opinion in accordance with Indiana Appellate Rule 58(A)(1), and affirm the trial court.

(Mike Frisch)

 

January 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Too Late To Disqualify?

A post from sunEthics

Judge presided over a criminal case in which the defendant was a City of Sweetwater police officer charged with official misconduct.  The State filed a motion to disqualify Judge, citing these grounds:  “(1) the trial judge’s acknowledged previous attorney-client relationship with the City of Sweetwater Police Department, which appeared as a third party duces tecum witness before the trial judge on a show cause order why it should not be held in contempt for its failure to comply with a subpoena duces tecum for production of documents; (2) the trial judge’s acknowledged personal and extra-judicial knowledge regarding facts asserted during that discovery dispute; and (3) the trial judge’s  acknowledged previous attorney-client relationship with the defendant, who he represented in another case.”

          Judge denied the motion as untimely.  The State petitioned the Third DCA for a writ of prohibition.  The appellate court denied the petition.  “While these allegations give rise to an objectively reasonable fear of bias or prejudice requiring disqualification of the trial judge, we are compelled to deny the petition for writ of prohibition because the motion to disqualify the trial judge was not timely filed.”  The court went on to indicate that Judge should step aside voluntarily:  “Although we have denied the petition, we note that rule 2.330(i) permits a judge to enter an order of disqualification on his own initiative.”   State v. Oliu, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 3d DCA, No. 3D15-2426, 1/6/2016), 2016 WL 63662. 

(Mike Frisch)

January 21, 2016 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (1)

Condo Law Specialty Approved

The Florida Supreme Court has adopted new provisions that create a specialization in condominium law

Having considered the Bar’s petition, we adopt these straightforward amendments to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar as proposed by the Bar. New subchapter 6-30 establishes a new board certification in condominium and planned development law. The Bar explains that adding new subchapter 6-30, and establishing the new board certification, will provide the public with a means to identify those attorneys that have a reputation for professionalism and are proficient in an area of law vital to the economy of Florida.

 (Mike Frisch)

January 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Day Late

A District of Columbia Hearing Committee has recommended that a consented-to 30 day suspension with automatic reinstatement be approved for an attorney who had failed to disclose his client's death in a telephone call with the mediator of the day before a mediation in which the client was a plaintiff in an action against her landlord for a toxic tort.

The attorney did disclose the death to the mediator on the following day at the mediation.

The committee concluded that automatic reinstatement is appropriate as the attorney had no prior discipline.

The case is In re Kenneth Rosenau and can be found at this link.

Any approved consent is a cause for celebration in D.C. the case was docketed for investigation in 2013. (Mike Frisch)

January 21, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Patented Censure

A public censure was imposed on an attorney by the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department

The respondent resides in North Carolina and is a member of the North Carolina Bar. He is a registered patent agent and patent attorney. His practice focuses on patent and trademark matters.

In February 2007, the respondent agreed to represent a client, David Abels, in a patent matter, which included the drafting and filing of a United States nonprovisional application and/or a Patent Corporation Treaty (hereinafter PCT) international application claiming priority to a prior provisional application filed by the client. The subject application was intended to preserve priority rights and had to be filed by January 16, 2008. The respondent failed to file the type of application for which he had been retained, as he mistakenly concluded that the subject application would be of no benefit since it related to a prior version of the product. Without ever consulting his client, the respondent directed a paralegal at his firm to prepare and file a nonprovisional application and a PCT application that removed claims for priority. As a consequence of the respondent's mistake, his client did not have priority to the provisional application. The respondent and his client settled a civil lawsuit regarding the matter for $175,000.

The respondent understood that his conduct deviated from the ethical standards and disciplinary rules of the USPTO Code of Professional Responsibility. He was remorseful. He had no prior disciplinary history before the Office of Enrollment and Discipline.

He had accepted a reprimand by the USPTO. (Mike Frisch)

January 21, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Outside City Limits

A night of drinking at the City Limits Saloon in Raleigh led to a disciplinary complaint filed against an attorney by the North Carolina State Bar.

It is alleged that he became disruptive when the establishment declined to serve him due to his intoxication and asked him to leave. When a Sheriff's Deputy tried to get him cab, he allegedly became belligerent and twice kicked him in the shin. He then informed the officer that he would "kick his ass."

It got worse from there.

He was spitting so much that he was fitted with a spit guard. Taken to the hospital, he threw the spit guard at an officer and urinated on the hospital floor. When given a receptacle to pee in, he did so but threw it at officers and some urine splashed on an ER nurse.

The incident resulted in a conviction on several charges. He was sentenced to 60 days followed by probation.

Fox News 8 reported on the incident and described him as a prominent criminal defense attorney.  (Mike Frisch)

January 20, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Long Time Coming

The web page of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board reported the suspension of a recently-convicted attorney.

Trib Live News had reported on allegations

When an Allegheny County grand jury recommended charges against former county Councilman and Solicitor Charles McCullough for allegedly taking money from an elderly woman's estate, the Steelers were Super Bowl champions, Barack Obama had recently become the first black president, and the iPhone 3 was relatively new.

In the five years since, the Steelers have not won a Super Bowl, Obama won a second term and the iPhone 6 is Apple's latest device. Meanwhile, the case against the Upper St. Clair Republican has been mired in continuances and appeals. Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen, who was presiding over the case, retired.

The case has muddled through two defense attorneys, two judges, six continuances, three status hearings, at least 15 motions and two appeals.

For the first time since McCullough's arrest Feb. 19, 2009, his lawyer believes the case is finally on track. Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman, administrative judge for the court's criminal division, assigned the case to Judge Lester G. Nauhaus in November and scheduled a trial for April 13.

The trial will go forward unless something “completely unexpected” happens, said McCullough's lawyer, Jon Pushinsky.

“He always wanted his opportunity to vindicate himself and put the government's allegations to the test of evidence,” Pushinsky said. “We remain hopeful that what he is accused of was not a violation of the law.”

Prosecutors say McCullough, 59, abused his power of attorney to take about $200,000 from the $14.7 million estate of Shirley Jordan, an elderly dementia patient who died in 2010 at 93. They say McCullough used the money to enrich his family and political allies.

Pushinsky contends that an Orphans' Court judge approved his client's actions regarding Jordan's estate, and what he did was not illegal. McCullough, county solicitor for a year before serving as a county councilman from 2007 to 2011, faces two dozen counts, including nine counts of felony theft.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, declined to comment, as did McCullough.

Authorities say McCullough stole the money from Jordan's estate in 2006 and 2007 while acting as its co-trustee. The grand jury said he illegally paid himself and his sister, Kathleen McCullough, and donated $50,000 to Republican election campaigns and a charity run by his wife, Patricia A. McCullough, now a Commonwealth Court judge.

Jordan told a district attorney's detective during interviews in 2007 that Charles McCullough stole her money. “Yes, he handles everything now, and I did not give him permission.”

Kathleen McCullough, 52, of Collier is charged with theft and conspiracy in connection with the case. Her trial is scheduled for April 13 before Nauhaus. Neither she nor her court-appointed lawyer could be reached.

According to the grand jury, Charles McCullough arranged for his sister to get $60 an hour to be a companion for Jordan when Kathleen McCullough was fired from her job at Mackin Engineering amid accusations that she embezzled $1.25 million — a crime for which she was sentenced in August 2010 to two to four years in prison.

According to the grand jury, Charles McCullough's son was paid to cut grass at Jordan's home, and Catholic Charities received a check for $10,000 from Jordan's estate while his wife was the group's executive director. Patricia McCullough is not charged.

Jordan told investigators that she did not authorize the contribution, according to the criminal complaint.

“Oh, come on. Would I be crazy enough to give out a check for $10,000 to someone that I didn't know?” Jordan told investigators.

Several County Council members who served with Charles McCullough declined to comment.

Pushinsky said most of the continuances over the years were “part of the process” of a complex case involving more than 10,000 pages of documents. “This is not a routine case,” he said.

Pushinsky was responsible for an April 2012 continuance, and a delay occurred in September 2011 when McCullough fired his lawyer, Patrick Thomassey, over “irreconcilable differences.”

The case was continued again in July because of a death in Pushinsky's family.

(Mike Frisch)

January 20, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Unexpected Reaction To Training Seminar

The Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the denial of benefits of a psychiatric nurse who "freaked out" at a training seminar.

Employee underwent an initial orientation with Employer in Texas when he began working for Employer, but it did not involve any clinical training. He subsequently attended two annual conferences in 2011 and 2012. The 2012 conference was a three-day event in Texas. On the second day, September 27, 2012, Employee, along with other Horizon employees/program directors, attended a trauma-sensitivity care training seminar presented by Barbara Lang, also an employee of Employer. The first part of the two-part seminar concerned trauma care and how to handle patients. According to Employee’s testimony, which the trial court credited, during this portion of the seminar, Ms. Lang stated to all of the attendees: “I want you to put yourself in your patient’s shoes and imagine how it would feel when   emotionally, or sexually abused’?”

His reaction to this was unexpected

 Employee testified that immediately upon hearing the statement made by Ms. Lang at the seminar on September 27, 2012, emotion overcame him; he became overwhelmed; he totally “freaked out”; he had flashbacks of when he had been raped as a child by an older cousin; and he had a flood of emotions and memories. Employee testified that he could see things from when he had been a child, but that he could not connect them. Employee ran to the bathroom and splashed water on his face, but he could not pull himself together. He then ran to his hotel room and took some nitroglycerine because he thought he was having a heart attack. Employee returned to the seminar but, according tohis trial testimony, he was still freaked out, sick, nauseous, sweaty, confused, and dazed. Employee testified that he did not tell anyone, but rather he stayed to himself and was in what he described as a “zombie-like” state.

According to Employee, that evening he was quiet and disconnected; he could not concentrate, could not sleep, had nightmares and flashbacks, and cried. According to Employee, he was still numb the following day, and just tried to function. Employee testified that the flashbacks were of a prior sexual assault by a cousin, that had occurred when Employee was age eleven and the cousin was age seventeen. Employee testified that he had never sought psychiatric treatment for the assault, but had just put it away and that this had worked until he heard the statement by Ms. Lang. Employee denied having had prior flashbacks of sexual abuse. He testified that on this occasion, he felt that he was back in that prior situation and that he had a knife to his throat and was going to die.

The employee stopped working shortly thereafter,.

 The court concluded that the seminar did not create an abnormally stressful situation

The statement was not made or directed  to Employee individually. Rather, it was made to all one hundred plus of Employee’s fellow employees in attendance at the conference. The statement was not made with respect to any specific patient or with respect to any specific incident of abuse, and the statement did not include any details regarding any type or incident of abuse. Rather, the statement was broad and general...

We conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the finding of the trial court that the stress to which Employee was exposed and which Employee alleges caused his injuries was not abnormal, extraordinary, or unusual when viewed under the objective standard.

(Mike Frisch)

 

January 19, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Getting Mad And Even

sunEthics sunEthics has a report on a decision that will hearten lawyers who are trashed on line by former clients

 Lawyer Giustibelli represented Blake in a divorce from her husband, Birzon.  After a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, Blake and Birzon posted negative online reviews regarding Giustibelli.  The reviews stated that Giustibelli charged Blake 4 times the amount of fees originally quoted, that she lacked integrity, and that she falsified a contract.  Alleging that the reviews were defamatory, Giustibelli sued Blake and Birzon for libel.  The trial court entered a judgment of $350,000 in punitive damages for Giustibelli.  Blake and Birzon appealed.

The Fourth DCA affirmed.  Blake and Birzon contended that “their internet reviews constituted statements of opinion and thus were protected by the First Amendment and not actionable as defamation.”  The appeals court disagreed.  “all the reviews contained allegations that Giustibelli lied to Blake regarding the attorney’s fee. Two of the reviews contained the allegation that Giustibelli falsified a contract. These are factual allegations, and the evidence showed they were false.”  Appellants’ reliance on Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. 418 U.S. 323 (1974), was misplaced.  Giustibelli was not a media defendant, and for non-media defendants libel per se still exists in Florida. Blake v. Giustibelli, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 4th DCA, No. 4D14-3231, 1/6/2016), 2016 WL _______.

(Mike Frisch)

January 19, 2016 in Clients, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Klayman Bar Hearing Next Week

Free entertainment is available in a disciplinary hearing scheduled next week in a District of Columbia bar matter.

According to the web page of the Board of Professional Responsibility, this case is up for hearing

In re Larry E. Klayman, DN. 2008-D048
January 26-28, 2016, 9:30 a.m.
Courtroom II

We had this coverage of a previously-scheduled hearing in the matter

The petition (which is not available on line) alleges three instances of violations of District of Columbia Rule of Professional Conduct 1.9 in representing  interests materially adverse to Judicial Watch in the same or substantially related matters.  

It states that Mr. Klayman was Chairman and General Counsel of Judicial Watch from July 1994 to September 2003.

H. Clay Smith is the disciplinary counsel prosecuting the case. (Mike Frisch)

January 19, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Probation Fail, System Works

suspended An attorney who was subject to a stayed year and a day suspension on conditions violated the conditions and is now suspended for a year and a day.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ordered the stayed suspension last September. A probation violation hearing was held in December.

According to the Disciplinary Board report, the attorney "violated the terms and conditions of his court-ordered probation by using mind-altering chemicals, failing to reside in a sober-living facility, and failing to maintain contact with his sobriety monitor."

The revocation was handled with impressive dispatch - charges, hearing and a court order in less than six weeks.

Even though the violation was uncontested, such prompt action does suggest that in Pennsylvania public protection counts for something. (Mike Frisch)

January 19, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Charles Manson Comes To Michigan

A complaint filed against a family court judge by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission alleges, to put it charitable, rather rough treatment of children subject to a joint custody order.

The judge's bad day has  drawn widespread attention, reflected in this post from the Oakland Press News

Reaction was split this week at The Oakland Press’ Facebook page regarding a complaint being authorized against an Oakland County Circuit Judge.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission authorized the formal complaint on Monday against Judge Lisa Gorcyca, who has been at the center of controversy in a custody case involving a Bloomfield Hills couple.

Gorcyca is accused of misrepresenting the law and lying to the commission in a response to a letter. She is required to file a formal response to the complaint within 14 days of being served.

The custody case, involving Omer and Maya Tsimhoni, gained national interest last summer after Gorcyca ordered the children taken to Oakland County Children’s Village for refusing to speak with their father.

“I hope you will do your job when it comes to investigating the laws this judge broke,” wrote reader Marie Garcia, directing her comment toward the commission.

“Citizens are not allowed to break the law, or they pay (the) consequences. Judges should be even more ethical. Please remove her from the bench before she hurts any more children.”

Travis LaFalce said Gorcyca might be better suited on a TV production.

“If she wants to be unethical and a witch, then she should be on the set of Judge Judy,” he wrote.

“Her kind of power trip has no place in a real courtroom. Everyone needs to remember that this woman is up for re-election next year, and we all need to vote her out of office.”

Others were supportive of Gorcyca.

“Finding Judge Gorcyca guilty of any wrongdoing in this case would be a shame,” wrote Laura Baldwin.

“The last person the children need to be with is their seemingly very unstable mother. I’m praying that the justice system doesn’t take a giant step backward because of a bunch of looney abusive ‘mothers.’ To send the children back into such a toxic atmosphere would be a travesty.”

Aaron John Wilson said Gorcyca came down hard on his ex-wife during divorce proceedings because she did not answer clearly.

“I may be a little biased, but I think that kind of straight forward approach is respectable and appreciated,” he wrote.

The process could be a lengthy one, according to the explanation of the public disposition of grievances listed on the commission’s website.

After Gorcyca responds to the charges, a hearing will be scheduled. The commission has requested for the Michigan Supreme Court to appoint a master (an active or retired judge) to hear the case, take evidence and report to the commission.

After the master files a report, Gorcyca would be able to file objections and to brief issues to the commission. An opportunity for oral arguments is presented prior to a decision by the commission.

The commission has no authority to discipline a judge. It can either dismiss the matter if there is insufficient evidence or recommend that the Supreme Court censure, suspend, retire or remove a judge from office.

If the commission recommends action, a record is filed in the Supreme Court within 21 days. Within 28 days of receiving a copy of that record, the judge can petition the Supreme Court to modify or reject the recommendation. The commission must respond within 21 days.

The matter is placed on the Supreme Court calendar and both the judge and the commission can present oral arguments. After reviewing the record, the Supreme Court issues an opinion and judgment. The judge is allowed to file a motion for rehearing in the Supreme Court unless the court directs otherwise in its opinion.

Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press had commentary.

Like most of those who witnessed it live, I winced when I read the transcript of the June 24 hearing, in which the judge compared the children -- then ages 9, 10 and 13 -- to mass murderer Charles Manson's cult followers and insinuated they could be forced to spend the rest of their childhoods at Children's Village, which is both a detention facility and a way station for children in crisis.

But a review of the 5 1/2-year record of the underlying divorce and custody case led me to conclude that Gorcyca had merely suffered an unseemly meltdown in the course of a long, frustrating campaign to maintain the children's emotional ties to both parents.

In the social media firestorm that erupted after the children's mother took her story to a local TV station, Gorcyca hastily vacated her contempt judgment against the children and ordered them transferred to a summer camp in Ortonville.

But the hearing attracted the attention of the Judicial Tenure Commission, which issued a complaint late Monday ordering Gorcyca to respond  the commission staff's allegations that her behavior in the June 24 hearing violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct. The commission's investigators specifically accused Gorcyca of ridiculing the divorcing couple's children in court, exaggerating the legal punishment she could impose for their continued failure to engage with their father, and generally scaring the stuffing out of them.

The complaint alleges that Gorcyca had a sheriff's deputy handcuff the children in open court and laughed at them even as the youngest wept and trembled with fear.

Unfortunately for Gorcyca, all this took place an Oakland County courtroom where video cameras capture every word and gesture of the participants in any legal proceeding.

(Mike Frisch)

January 18, 2016 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Former Judicial Candidate Charged With Ethics Lapses

The North Carolina state Bar has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney engaged in misconduct in the domestic cases of herself and others.

The complaint alleges that she had failed to comply with a court-ordered mental health and substance abuse evaluation, filed a frivolous lawsuit and filed judicial ethics complaints with basis against judges involved in her divorce case.

The complaint seeks either a disability suspension or a suspension based on misconduct.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported in 2012 that the attorney -then a candidate for judicial office - had been accused of stalking.

A former boyfriend of Amy Allred, a Winston-Salem lawyer running for Forsyth district court judge, told city police in 2010 that Allred struck him in the head with a remote control. Then, he told police in 2011 that she stalked him after they broke up, according to police reports on the incidents.

David Arden Amundson, 50, the ex-boyfriend, refused to cooperate in prosecuting Allred, according to the police report, and Allred was never criminally charged. He never obtained a domestic-violence protective order against Allred.

Allred, 39, is running for an open judicial seat in Forsyth District Court against Assistant District Attorney David Sipprell. Allred, who runs her own law firm specializing in family law, unsuccessfully ran in 2008 against Forsyth District Judge Chester Davis, who is retiring.

Her response to the stalking allegations is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

 

January 18, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Firm Yet Fair" Judge Asks Defendant Out: "Being On Probation Is A Complication"

A Michigan District Court judge was censured and suspended without pay for 30 days late last year by order of the Michigan Supreme Court.

After he had handled a domestic violence matter, the following took place with the defendant

In December of 2014, after seeing [the defendant] in the hallway of the courthouse, Respondent received a Christmas card from her, wishing him a [M]erry Christmas and thanking him for being “an extremely firm yet fair judge.”

Respondent wrote back to [the defendant], on court stationery, indicating that he was also pleased to have run into her in the hall at the courthouse. In that same handwritten note, he said,

“You continue to sound well. No need to thank me. Well, maybe you can.

“I am not sure of your marital status. But if you are not, would you be interested in seeing me? Being on probation is a complication. I am interested if you are.”

They exchanged emails through January 2015.

He interceded in a separate matter on behalf of a friend's daughter.

Michigan Live had details here, (Mike Frisch)

January 15, 2016 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Second Chance

The Louisiana Supreme Court has readmitted an attorney conditionally licensed in 2011 who violated the conditions

Petitioner disclosed two DWI arrests on his application to take the Louisiana bar examination. In addition, the reported findings of an evaluation by the Lawyers Assistance Program (“LAP”) indicated the need for an intensive outpatient treatment program and ongoing monitoring by LAP as a result of petitioner’s history of alcohol abuse. In 2011, we conditionally admitted petitioner to the practice of law, subject to a period of probation coinciding with the remainder of his LAP agreement, which he entered into on October 21, 2009. In re: Ranshi, 09-2722 (La. 03/25/11), 57 So. 3d 1019. On May 13, 2014, we revoked petitioner’s conditional admission after he violated the terms of his LAP contract by testing positive for alcohol use while under monitoring of that program. In re: Ranshi, 14-0767 (La. 5/13/14), 139 So. 3d 989...

After considering the record in its entirety, we will adopt the adjudicative committee chair’s recommendation and readmit petitioner to the practice of law. Petitioner voluntarily admitted himself to Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center for inpatient treatment from June 2, 2014 through August 18, 2014. He continues treatment through aftercare counseling with a social worker and through quarterly follow-up care at Palmetto. He is currently considered to be in sustained full remission from alcohol dependence and safe to practice law. Petitioner also signed a new five-year LAP agreement on September 9, 2014, and LAP’s executive director indicates petitioner has remained compliant with the terms and conditions of the agreement since that time.

The conditional readmission requires compliance for five years and also comes with a stern warning

In light of petitioner’s past conduct, we take this opportunity to caution him that, in the future, we will expect nothing less than scrupulous adherence to the requirements of his LAP agreement. The ODC shall monitor petitioner’s compliance with his LAP agreement and notify this court of any violation, which may be grounds for immediately transferring petitioner to disability inactive status, or placing him on interim suspension, as appropriate.

(Mike Frisch)

January 15, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Innocence Attorney Found In Violation Of Ethics Rules

A panel has found misconduct by an attorney who retained a water bottle to test for DNA after interviewing the sister of a suspect in the crime for which her client (in part through her efforts) was exonerated and saved form execution, according to this report from the Associated Press.

The North Carolina State Bar has ruled that a lawyer who advocated for the wrongly convicted committed an ethical violation while trying to prove the innocence of a client.

Multiple media outlets report a State Bar disciplinary panel ruled Thursday against Chris Mumma, director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. Mumma was accused of taking a water bottle from someone without permission and having it tested for DNA.

 Mumma was trying to prove the innocence of Joseph Sledge, who served almost 40 years for a double murder until he was proven innocent. He was released from prison a year ago.

 

Multiple media outlets reported that the panel dismissed claims that Mumma was dishonest or deceitful or acted in a way prejudicial to the administration of justice. The panel will now determine her punishment, which could range from reprimand to disbarment.

Fred Morelock, the chairman of the panel, said the phrase repeated in the deliberations of the three-member panel was “crossing the line.”

The charges against Mumma date to 2013, when she and an employee of the innocence center went to the home of the sister of two brothers who had been suspects.

Mumma failed to convince the woman, Marie Andrus, to provide a DNA sample that could be tested to include or exclude her brothers as suspects, Mumma picked up her note pad and other items and grabbed a water bottle.

She realized the bottle was not hers but decided to keep it and have it tested for DNA. The bottle did not have DNA that was connected with the crime scene. Sledge was freed based on other evidence.

Our prior coverage is linked here. and here. 

Hat Tip to ABA Journal. (Mike Frisch)

January 15, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Legal Fiction, A Real Suspension

An attorney whose law firm was a "legal fiction" was suspended for three months by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The Disciplinary Review Board report has the story.

 Frederick Todd and Respondent established the law firm of Todd, Ferentz and Edelstein LLP (TFE). The firm dissolved on December 17, 2013, about two years later. Todd is a licensed attorney in California as was Ferentz. Ferentz was deceased prior to the creation of the firm.

At the time of the formation of the firm, respondent was an active duty captain in the United States Air Force and served as a chaplain. From December 2010 through July 2011, he was deployed to Afghanistan and Qatar. After his deployment, respondent was stationed at the Offutt Air Force base in Bellevue, Nebraska. On various occasions, he had also been stationed at Maxwell Air Force base in Montgomery, Alabama. Todd was respondent’s religious sponsor to the Department of Defense through an entity known as Pirchei Shosanim, Inc. On January I0, 2013, respondent received an honorable discharge from the Air Force. Respondent neither intended to practice nor actually practiced law with TFE and never received remuneration for his partnership. 

The violations

Respondent acknowledged to the OAE that his partnership with TFE was a legal fiction created in order to allow Todd to open and operate a law firm in New Jersey. As stated, he did not intend to be an active partner with TFE, but rather to lend his law license to TFE so that Todd could operate the firm. Respondent was willing to participate in this scheme out of fear that Todd would withdraw his sponsorship with the Air Force, threatening respondent’s ability to remain a chaplain. Nonetheless, respondent failed to ensure that the firm complied with the [Rules of Professional Conduct]. 

The Orthodox Union had a story on his work as a chaplain. (Mike Frisch)

January 15, 2016 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0)