Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Old Enough To Know Better

The Maryland Court of Appeals has denied admission to a graduate of Tulane Law School as a result of a "demonstrated consistent pattern of financial irresponsibility" and the fact that he had given false financial information on a car loan application.

He also had failed to disclose a public indecency conviction to the law school.

The failure to disclose to Tulane came to light when the applicant applied to the Florida Bar. An official from Tulane advised Florida that it would have admitted him even if the conviction had been disclosed.

The court rejected the notion that these lapses were "youthful indiscretions"

 Here, we are not examining a singular instance of failure to provide a full and candid disclosure that could potentially be rehabilitated through later disclosure; instead, we are confronted with Movant’s pattern of financial irresponsibility and his lack of candor on the car loan application. At the time of the events detailed above—when Movant declared bankruptcy, incurred additional debt, and applied for admission to the Bar of Florida and the Bar of Maryland—Movant was over the age of thirty. In other words, Movant’s misconduct cannot be written off as youthful indiscretions or attributed to juvenility. As the Board found, and we agree, Movant has shown a lack of “commitment to honesty and financial responsibility.”

The applicant had previously been denied admission in Florida. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"An Entrepreneur At Heart"

The Maryland Court of Appeals has disbarred an attorney who withdrew $270,000 from a deceased client's bank account to pay for services not yet performed and testified falsely in the ensuing bar investigation.

The court's opinion followed an order of disbarment entered after oral argument.

The court rejected the attorney's contention that the ethical rules did not apply to his conduct

we have determined that attorneys, acting in a non-legal role, are subject to the purview of the Rules when the hearing judge has found that the attorneys conduct was dishonest, fraudulent, deceitful or constituted a misrepresentation.

The court affirmed the finding that there was an attorney-client relationship here.

We agree with Judge Ballou-Watts that Respondent’s conduct in issuing unearned checks for $14,500.00 and $775.00 from Ms. Ominsky’s personal account for services that had not been rendered and his removal of $270,000.00 and $3,500.00 from the Trust account were acts of dishonesty. Hodes improperly removed funds from both Ms. Ominsky’s personal account and the Trust account and utilized those funds for his and his wife’s personal benefit. His conduct was dishonest and, thus, violated Rule 8.4(c).

The Baltimore Business Journal reported in May 2012 that the attorney had left the firm he had founded twenty-four years earlier

Hodes, who called himself “an entrepreneur at heart,” said he was looking to return to a smaller legal environment. He expects to grow his new firm to no more than five to seven lawyers.

“This is not about growth and getting big,” Hodes, 60, said in an interview Wednesday. “I’ve been there done that.”

Hodes said he is leaving his former firm on good terms.

“There is no acrimony whatsoever between me and the firm,” Hodes said. “I wish them well. They are my close and dear friends. This is me making a change in my life.”

Two other attorneys from Hodes, Pessin & Katz are joining Hodes at his new firm. M. Chad Malkus joins the firm as a partner. He was previously of counsel at Hodes, Pessin & Katz and managed the firm’s Cambridge office. Ryan McConnell, who joins as an associate, was an associate at Hodes, Pessin & Katz.

Hodes is one of the Baltimore area’s better-known elder care and estate lawyers. He teaches a course on elder law at the University of Baltimore’s law school and has hosted a radio program, “Financial Focus” on WCBM radio. Hodes said he is talking with WBAL Radio about hosting a program on estates, trusts and elder law.

The Maryland Daily Record reported here. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Private Attorney General Disbarred

The Maryland Court of Appeals has ordered disbarment of an attorney for tax crimes

Among other things, an attorney is an “officer of the legal system and a public citizen.” If this is a special role in a nation that prides itself on the rule of law, then it entails a special responsibility to abide by the law. It also means that, when acting as an advocate, a lawyer must advance only arguments that are good faith interpretations of existing law or good faith efforts to change existing law. Fraudulent conduct and frivolous argument to avoid a civic obligation are antithetical to the lawyer’s role.

Respondent Michael Craig Worsham carved out a practice that concentrated in the private enforcement of federal and state laws prohibiting unsolicited faxes and telephone a role specifically provided in those statutes that augments public enforcement efforts  and that is sometimes referred to as a “private attorney general." Mr. Worsham, however, proved to be less law-abiding in the conduct of his private affairs. As his practice grew more lucrative, he ceased to file income tax returns or pay income taxes. When detected, he attempted to justify his conduct with well-worn meritless arguments about the constitutionality and validity of the federal income tax – arguments that he repeated in his filings with us even after he had lost at every level in the federal courts and that, he ultimately conceded, had no bearing on his obligation to comply with State tax laws.

We hold that the willful failure to file income tax returns and pay income taxes, when done with fraudulent intent, merits disbarment.

The attorney was admitted in 1998 in Maryland.

He stopped paying state and federal taxes in 2005. When the IRS got on his trail, he engaged in concealment and raised frivolous claims in the courts. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Left Hand Off The Bible

The New Jersey Supreme Court has remanded a plaintiff's verdict in a civil case based on a report to the judge by a juror that the defendant had not placed his left hand on the Bible while taking the oath

 After the verdict was rendered and the jury was discharged, but before post-trial motions were argued and the judgment was entered, the trial judge had a conversation with the jurors, outside the presence of counsel, which was not recorded. During that discussion, one juror noted that she was surprised that defendant had not placed his hand on the Bible before he testified. The judge did not make a record of the juror’s observation, but later informed counsel.

The court noted that the record was "sparse."

From the case head note

Here, because there was no public inquiry of the juror, the record is unacceptably sparse. The way to properly handle such an inquiry depends on the individual juror’s credibility. It also depends on the juror’s answers to questions about the comment, what the juror may have said to other jurors, and what those jurors themselves might have expressed about the administration of the oath to Husain. However, all that is contained in the present record is the judge’s comments during colloquy with counsel as part of the post-verdict motion practice. Under these circumstances, the Court is compelled to remand this matter for further proceedings to allow a proper inquiry to be conducted by the judge to whom this matter will be assigned on remand. A new judge must consider afresh the import of the juror’s observation and comment, along with all other relevant factors bearing on whether a Rule 1:16-1 formal inquiry is warranted.

The defendant is a doctor accused of creating a hostile work environment, sexual harrassment and retaliation. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fishing And Tennis Drinking Puts Conditional Admission At Risk

An attorney conditionally admitted in Louisiana vioated the sobriety terms imposed by the bar's lawyer assistance program ("LAP").

The admission involved monitoring for five years.

A Hearing Board has found that he violated the conditions but proposes that he be given another opportunity to get with the program.

After over three years of sobriety, he had consumed alcohol while on a Grand Isle fishing trip and again the following weekend after a tennis tournament.

The bar's program directed him to an inpatient program but he did not comply.

The Hearing Board noted that he "appears to be genuinely and successfully pursuing sobriety while performing at a high level as an in-house business attorney."

It nonetheless recommends that, within 30 days, he complete a professioal assessment acceptable to the LAP and follow their course of treatment.

If he fails to do so, it recommends a two-year suspension of his conditional admission. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Violations Result In No Discipline Unless There Is "Actual Harm"

The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has agreed with a Hearing Board recommendation and dismissed charges against an attorney, notwithstanding the conclusion that the attorney had violated rules governing competence and supervisory obligations.

The analysis

Here, Respondent violated his duties owed to his clients and to the profession by entrusting his non-lawyer assistant to pay his annual dues/disciplinary assessment and to register his trust account but then failing to properly supervise her. However, the record clearly establishes that Respondent’s actions (or inactions) were purely negligent and did not result in client harm. Any resulting harm to the profession was minimal as Respondent quickly rectified the consequences of his non-lawyer assistant’s conduct. Furthermore, there are substantial mitigating factors supported by the record: 1) absence of a dishonest or selfish motive; 2) timely good faith effort to make restitution or rectify the consequences of misconduct; 3) full and free disclosure to the disciplinary board or cooperative attitude towards proceedings; 4) character or reputation; 5) delay in disciplinary proceedings; and 6) remorse.

Based upon the lack of actual harm, the absence of a dishonest or selfish motive, and the substantial mitigating factors, the Board declines to impose formal discipline in this case. In the past, the Court has declined to impose formal discipline in cases where there was a minor violation of the rules that did not cause any actual harm.

This approach is a very slippery slope. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Her Granddaughter's Mother

 An attorney who has been reprimanded by the Ohio Supreme Court for the following

by signing the name of her granddaughter’s mother to an affidavit, notarizing the document without noting that she had signed it with the affiant’s authorization, and then filing the document in a guardianship proceeding that was pending in the Cuyahoga County Probate Court.

The court

[Attorney] Wilson argued that a public reprimand is the appropriate sanction for her misconduct here. In support of that sanction, she cited Disciplinary Counsel v. Mezacapa , 101 Ohio St.3d 156, 2004-Ohio-302, 803 N.E.2d 397 (publicly reprimanding an attorney who notarized his own signing of the client’s name on an affidavit without noting on the document that he had obtained permission to sign it on the client’s behalf). She also noted that this is the first time she has been charged with misconduct in her 33½ years of practice; that her actions were driven by her concern for her grandchild’s welfare; and that her conduct caused no actual harm because the court in which the document was filed did not have jurisdiction over the matter, and but for the court’s dismissal on that ground, she would have withdrawn the motion herself.

While acknowledging that an improper notarization alone typically warrants only a public reprimand, relator argued that in addition to the improper notarization of the affidavit, Wilson also sent a text message to Danielle instructing her to tell the magistrate that she had signed the document. Based on this additional act, relator argued that the appropriate sanction for Wilson’s  misconduct is a six-month suspension, all stayed on the condition that she engage in no further misconduct.

The court concluded that cases involving suspension were distinguishable. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fined And Enjoined For Unauthorized Practice

The Ohio Supreme Court has fined and enjoined further unauthorized law practice of a Cincinatti woman who had held herself out as an attorney.

The enjoined individual has never held a law license. She provided immigration representation to a client.

Kathleen Maloney reported

In today’s unanimous per curiam decision, the court noted that federal law  allows nonlawyers to represent people in immigration hearings in some specific  and limited circumstances. However, the court pointed out, those exceptions do  not apply here because Hernandez falsely presented herself as an attorney.

In determining the appropriate  sanction, the court looked at several factors, including Hernandez’ failure to cooperate  with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s investigation or respond to the  complaint filed against her. The court also examined the flagrancy of her  violations and the harm she caused to third parties.

“[Hernandez] falsely claimed to  have personal relationships with real federal employees, forged letters that  purported to be from the immigration judge presiding over Galan-Rubio’s case,  and alleged that they were her coconspirators, willing to engage in ex parte communications and accept bribes in exchange  for a favorable outcome in a pending case,” the opinion stated. The reputations  of those federal employees were damaged by her actions, and they were investigated  by a federal agency, the court added.

“Hernandez’ fraud … also preyed  on vulnerable, unwitting victims who are unfamiliar with the immigration  process and who may be accustomed to the practice of bribing government  officials to obtain favorable results in their countries of origin. The  consequences of such schemes are enormous.”

In this case, Galan-Rubio paid  Hernandez $2,050, and the federal office investigating the matter gave him $600  to pay her during their inquiry. Galan-Rubio’s attorney also said if he had not  shown up for his March hearing, he may have been deported and unable to return  to the United States for 10 years.

“Because Hernandez failed to  cooperate in the [UPL] proceedings, there is no way to know how many others may  have fallen victim to her scheme,” the court noted.

The court imposed the  maximum $10,000 penalty for Hernandez’ handling of Galan-Rubio’s matter and a  $5,000 penalty for advertising legal services on her business cards. The court  did not order restitution at this time, but  explained that state law allows a victim of the unauthorized practice of law to  sue the nonlawyer directly to recover fees and damages.

(Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Suspension Proposed For Conversion Of Elderly Client's Funds

A nine-month suspension and resitution is the appropriate sanction for an attorney's conversion of the funds of an elderly client, according to a report and recommendation of the Illinois Review Board.

The Hearing Board concluded that Respondent  violated Rule 1.15(a) by opening the two accounts in his own name, depositing  Smith's funds into his accounts and converting the funds.1 The  Hearing Board found that Respondent transferred the funds into accounts in his  own name without authorization because he was having financial difficulties. The  Hearing Board also concluded that Respondent engaged in dishonesty in violation  of Rule 8.4(c) by knowingly using Smith's funds without authorization to address  his own financial difficulties, by not informing anyone about his use of the  funds, and by falsely telling Smith's children that he had set up accounts in  Smith's name.


The Hearing Board found Respondent's mitigation to  be minimal. He testified he was involved in several pro bono cases and he  participated in religious activities. He has not been previously disciplined.  The Hearing Board noted in aggravation that Respondent had not cooperated in  discovery resulting in sanctions being entered against him, he converted the  funds from an elderly and vulnerable client at a time he was having financial  difficulties, and he caused harm to Smith and to her family.

The attorney had contended that the sanction was too harsh and that restitution should not be required.

I'd say nine months looks like a gift for this type of misconduct. (Mike Frisch)

December 23, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Attorney Shoots Himself (In The Backside, Not The Foot)

The Indiana Supreme Court has converted an interim suspension for failure to cooperate into an indefinite suspension of an attorney.

The Indiana Lawyer has the story of the attorney's underlying problem as reported in July 2013

A southern Indiana attorney accused of staging his shooting a little more than a year ago will avoid a trial that had been scheduled to begin Wednesday. The attorney will enter a guilty plea next month, but attorneys involved with the case said they won’t disclose details.

Authorities say evidence suggests Peter Raventos, 44, of Bloomington, rigged a shotgun to stage a shooting at McCormick’s Creek State Park near Spencer on June 25, 2012. Raventos called 911 a little after 10 p.m. to report he had been shot, and he attempted to portray himself the victim of a random gunman, investigators said.

Raventos, who practiced in Spencer, had been scheduled to stand trial Wednesday on a Class D felony charge of obstruction of justice and a Class B misdemeanor count of false informing. But Owen County Prosecutor Donald R. VanDerMoere II said a plea deal will resolve the case.

“Until it actually goes forward, I’m not at liberty to disclose” details of the resolution, VanDerMoere said. Court records show a change of plea hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 27 before Owen Circuit Judge Pro Tem Kelsey Hanlon.

Raventos’ attorney, Paul Watts of Spencer, declined to comment, and Raventos could not be reached. The telephone number listed for him on the Indiana Roll of Attorneys has been disconnected.

A felony conviction would lead to a request for suspension from the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, but Raventos already has been suspended from practice. He is among more than 300 attorneys suspended May 31 for failing to meet continuing legal education requirements, pay fees or for IOLTA violations. Raventos was suspended for all of those reasons, according to the order.

As Raventos was being treated last year for wounds inflicted by more than 20 shotgun pellets that struck him in the back, conservation officers and police said his story began to unravel. They interviewed witnesses at the park who told them they heard distant shots fired well before the time Raventos called 911.

When authorities searched the area near the shooting, they found bungee cords, fishing line, a spent shotgun shell, an unspent shotgun shell and a small piece of plywood embedded with shotgun pellets, suggesting an earlier test. Conservation officer K-9 units searching the area also found a shotgun wad — a small plastic cup inside a shotgun shell casing that separates the pellets from the gunpowder. When fired, the wad is expelled and falls to the ground.

Conservation officer scuba divers searched the nearby White River and located a 20-gauge shotgun that was later linked to Raventos.

“It was quite unusual from the minute we arrived,” Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement District 5 Commander Lt. Kent Hutchins said after Raventos was arrested several days later. “Evidence indicates it was staged by himself.”

A later Indiana Lawyer story reported that the attorney pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

Additional details provided by WBIW.com

The officer observed pimply and bruised spots on Raventos' backside, and noted they did not seem fresh and were not bleeding much. They noticed two smeared bloodstains on his shirt.

(Mike Frisch)

December 22, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Short Arizona Agreed Suspension Becomes Long Suspension In Oklahoma

A 90-day suspension imposed in Arizona was raised to a suspension of two years and a day as reciprocal discipline by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

There is no question that the attorney misled the defense, his co-counsel, his supervisor in the Arizona Attorney General's Office, and the trial court when he failed to reveal multiple conversations with a confidential intermediary appointed for the purpose of aiding defense counsel in uncovering evidence of mitigation. Those representations were not merely oral but extended to the filing of false and misleading affidavits in the trial court and causing his supervisor and co-worker to do the same with the end result being the filing of a motion to disqualify the Attorney General's office in its entirety from participating in the capital murder prosecution. Finally, [he] did not timely notify the Bar Association the discipline imposed by the Arizona Supreme Court.

The need for a more severe sanction

The respondent is a seasoned prosecutor. Not only does he serve in the Attorney General's Office in the State of Arizona, Wintory had a long-stint of service under Oklahoma County's District Attorney, Bob Macy. He teaches seminars on the duties of prosecutors, defense counsel, law enforcement, and judges on issues related to constitutional law.There simply is no excuse for the respondent's failure to be completely honest in regard to his conversations with the confidential intermediary in the underlying criminal proceeding. His actions in this matter compromised the ability of the Arizona Attorney General's Office to prosecute an alleged murderer.

Justice Taylor was disbar.

Notably, the sanction imposed by the Acting Presiding Disciplinary Judge in Arizona was an agreed disposition premised on the State Bar's concession that the attorney's conduct was negligent.

The details are set forth in the disposition linked here.

AZ Central has this report on the Arizona sanction. (Mike Frisch)

December 22, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Attorney Has Due Process Right To Notice Of Alleged Rule Violations

The Utah Supreme Court has reversed findings of misconduct, concluding that the accused attorney had been denied due process.

A screening panel found that the attorney violated Rules 1.2, 1.4 and 8.4(a).

The attorney had not been placed on notice of the alleged Rule 1.2, which violated his due process rights. 

The court found insufficient evidence of the remaining violations, concluding that the conduct at issue was addressed in Rule 1.1 (competence) rather than Rule 1.4 (communication).

The screening panel declined to find a Rule 1.1 violation.

The court held that conduct covered by one rule cannot be sanctioned by reference to another rule. (Mike Frisch)

December 20, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stealing From Elderly Client Draws Appropriate Sanction

An attorney who had obtained power of attorney from an elderly client was disbarred by the Maryland Court of Appeals for misappropriation and deceit.

The attorney was added to a joint bank account that had over $14,000 on balance. Approximately $3,000 was deposited per month. The client had lived on the $3,000 and never made cash withdrawals or used a check card.

The attorney began to make cash withdrawals and used a check card so that in three months the balance of the joint account stood at $2.92.

After the client sold her home for over $245,000, the proceeds were deposited into the joint account. The attorney used the proceeds to pay his bills and to purchase clothes, meals and alcohol.

He also treated himself to Miami, Las Vegas and Hawaii trips on the client's tab.

The client had a stroke in 2011 and required assisted care until her death in 2012. By then, her funds were exhausted.

The attorney wrote checks to cover her funeral expenses and burial. The checks bounced.

He made false representations concerning his services to a lawyer hired to close the client's estate. He also lied to Bar Counsel.

There were no mitigating circumstances.

Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine any mitigation that would make a lesser sanction appropriate.

Nothing degrades the legal profession more than thefts from a vulnerable and trusting client. The Maryland Client Protection Fund will likely come nowhere near making this estate whole. (Mike Frisch)

December 20, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Whereabouts Unknown

An attorney who was charged with felony receiving stolen property failed to appear for court proceedings.

His whereabouts are presently unknown.

As a result, the Kentucky Supreme Court has ordered an indefinite suspension.

The attorney is presently suspended for unrelated misconduct.

The court noted that the sanction of an indefinite suspension is generally not available as a final sanction in an original matter. The court did not regard this sanction as a final one.

December 19, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Attorney Barred From Pro Se Filings In Disciplinary Matter

The Florida Supreme Court has held that an attorney who has filed abusive pleadings is barred from filing pro se motions in his disciplinary matter.

This Court has chosen to sanction pro se respondents who have abused the judicial process and otherwise misused this Court’s limited judicial resources by filing frivolous, nonmeritorious, or otherwise inappropriate filings. Such respondents have been barred from further filings in this Court unless their pleadings, motions, or other requests for relief were filed under the signature of a member of The Florida Bar in good standing other than the respondents. The Court has found that limitations on the abilities of such respondents to submit any further filings in this Court were necessary to protect the constitutional right of access of other litigants, in that it permitted this Court to devote its finite resources to the consideration of legitimate claims filed by others...

Accordingly, the Clerk of this Court is hereby instructed to reject any future pleadings, petitions, motions, documents, or other filings submitted by David Frank Petrano unless such filings are signed solely by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar other than Petrano. R. Regulating Fla. Bar 3-7.17(d). Counsel may file on Petrano’s behalf if counsel determines that the proceeding may have merit and can be brought in good faith.

The disciplinary matter involves the Bar's motion for interim probation. (Mike Frisch)

December 18, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Use Of Trust Account To Aid Son's Business Gets Lawyer Reprimanded

An attorney who allowed his escrow account to be used by his son, who was experiencing financial difficulty in operating a construction business, was publicly reprimanded by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The court declined to order restitution to the son's aggrieved customer

There is no question that Attorney Steffes violated the trust account rules by allowing his son to use his trust account as a clearing house for his construction business.  However, we are not convinced that this ethical failure per se obligates Attorney Steffes to reimburse his son's business client, R.W., for the loss R.W. incurred in his business dealings with G.S. and Steffes Construction.  R.W. had a remedy for that loss and indeed availed himself of that remedy:  R.W. sought and obtained a civil monetary judgment for $9,500 directly from Steffes Construction. 

We reiterate that Attorney Steffes should not have permitted his son to deposit funds into Attorney Steffes's trust account.  This conduct violated the ethics rules and warrants discipline.  However, we are not persuaded under the facts of this case that the rules go so far as to require Attorney Steffes to essentially serve as guarantor for funds of his son's business client, R.W.  While the court can appreciate that R.W. is aggrieved because he lost over $10,000 due to G.S.'s failure to complete a construction project, it remains true that R.W. obtained a judgment against G.S. in civil court.

The attorney's trust account will be monitored for six mobnths. (Mike Frisch)

December 18, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drag Race Death Leads To Suspension And, Now, Reinstatement

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has reinstated an attorney convicted of felony manslaughter and misdemeanor DUI

On December 22, 2007, Morgan and his best friend and law partner, Andre Carolina, were having a few drinks after work. At one point in the evening the two decided to go to a different location. Morgan drove. The record indicates Morgan engaged in drag racing with another vehicle. It is alleged the other vehicle swerved into Morgan's lane causing him to swerve into oncoming traffic. A wreck ensued, injuring Morgan, some occupants of the oncoming vehicle and fatally wounding Mr. Carolina. The record reflects Morgan's blood alcohol level was right at the threshold of .08.

The court relied on trial panel findings

The Trial Panel unanimously found Morgan should be reinstated. Specifically, it found Morgan established by clear and convincing evidence he possessed good moral character sufficient to entitle him to be admitted to the OBA. This decision having come after its consideration of the severity and circumstances surrounding the offense shows the impact the evidence and testimony made on the Trial Panel. Testimony presented showed how remorseful Morgan was for the death of his friend and partner, Andre Carolina. After release from the hospital Morgan immediately went to Andre's widow who forgave him for the incident. The testimony shows Morgan has tried to look after and help the Carolina family and continues to financially help Andre's young daughter. He has kept in contact with the family members who also look after him when he frequently becomes depressed about the loss of Andre. Morgan and others testified he has refused to drink since the accident. After the accident, Morgan has many times voluntarily participated in speaking for the Victims Impact Panel. Testimony reflects he has done this since September 2008 and will whole heartedly continue to do so. Also, since September 2008, he has spoken on behalf of the Tulsa County Crash Court Program which holds sessions at high schools. Additionally, he has attended counseling sessions through Lawyers Helping Lawyers.

And from his partner's widow and the prosecutor

Ms. Carolina testified she believed Morgan was one of the most loyal and trustworthy people she knew and it was her desire for him to be reinstated to practice law. She testified Morgan was always there for her family and she did not foresee that this would change. Steve Kunzweiler, the prosecutor on Morgan's criminal case, also testified that Morgan demonstrated the requisite moral fitness to be an attorney. Since his resignation Morgan has repeatedly volunteered with the Victims Impact Panel and other organizations to help prevent others from drinking and driving. He has completely refrained from drinking and has sought counseling. In his testimony Morgan expressed his understanding of the seriousness of his crime and the disrepute it has brought upon the legal profession. He has also continued to keep abreast of current legal matters through his work, reading the bar journal and continuing legal education courses. Morgan further exhibited maturity in not only how he handled his case load after his suspension but how he took care of Andre's case load to ensure Andre's clients would have representation.

In sum, the court found clear and convincing evidence supported reinstatement.

NewsOK has this story on the incident that led to the suspension. (Mike Frisch)


December 17, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Partner You Wouldn't Want To Have

An attorney who defaulted on allegations that he had misappropriated over $100,000 due to his law firm was disbarred by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

The Departmental Disciplinary Committee seeks an order disbarring respondent, pursuant to the Rules of the Appellate Division, First Department (22 NYCRR) § 603.4(g), because he has been suspended under 22 NYCRR 603.4(e)(1)(iii) and has not appeared or applied to the Committee or this Court for a hearing or reinstatement within six months from the date of the order of suspension, which was October 11, 2012. We suspended respondent from the practice of law for misappropriating over $100,000 belonging to his former law firm for his own personal benefit without permission or authority to do so.

The Committee served respondent with the instant motion by first-class and certified mail, return receipt requested, to his counsel, yet he have not submitted a response. Because more than six months has elapsed since this Court's October 11, 2012 order of suspension, and respondent has not sought a hearing or reinstatement, disbarment is warranted...

It seems entirely appropriate to me to act promptly to impose discipline when an attorney defaults on charges.

In the District of Columbia --where default in disciplinary matters is treated as if it were the Ebola virus -- a case like this would take years to bring to conclusion and eat up limited bar resources better devoted to matters where the attorney cares enough about the license to participate in the proceedings. (Mike Frisch)

December 17, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Same Brief Times 31

The Ohio Supreme Court has imposed a stayed two-year suspension of an attorney who had filed the identical brief in 31 of 35 criminal appeals:

Since being admitted to the bar in 2001, respondent has been a solo practitioner. In recent years, his practice has consisted of court-appointed work, primarily in juvenile court. But from 2006 to 2010, the Ashland County Court of Common Pleas appointed Milhoan to handle 35 criminal appeals. Of those 35 cases, 31 involved appeals from guilty pleas. In each of those cases, Milhoan filed appellate briefs that were identical except for certain “case-specific modifications such as names, dates, crimes, sentences, and potential mitigation,” according to the stipulations.

The parties stipulated and the board found that each brief (1) was ten pages long, (2) repeated the same grammatical errors, (3) raised the same assignment of error—“The imposition of a prison sentence in this case imposes an unnecessary burden on state’s resources”—(4) failed to cite any case law in support of the assigned error, and (5) failed to include any information regarding the cost of incarceration or why the appellant’s sentence would burden the state’s resources. The briefs cited only one case (for the definition of clear and convincing evidence) and four sections of the Revised Code—three related to sentencing and one regarding appeal as a matter of right. And although these 31 briefs were virtually identical, in 29 of these cases, Milhoan requested at least three extensions of time to file his appellate briefs.

The court considered evidence of alcohol abuse and required the attorney to comply with the bar's assistance program. (Mike Frisch)

December 17, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Court Asserts Disciplinary Authority Over Clinical Faculty

Somehow I missed an order of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals amending to Rule XI, section I to extend disciplinary jurisdiction over

all new and visiting clinical professors providing services pursuant to Rule 48(e) (4).

The change is effective as of October 2.

Here's hoping there are no cases involving alleged ethics violations by this class of lawyers. (Mike Frisch)

December 16, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)