Thursday, March 26, 2015

Short Suspension For Attempt to View Unclothed Teen

The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board has affirmed a 30-day suspension of a lawyer conviction of attempted surveillance of an unclothed person, who was his eighteen-year-old step-niece.

The offense is a misdemeanor.

The attorney's conduct was determined to be "aberrant behavior accompanying his sudden, medically unsupervised cessation of an anti-depressant [he] had been taking."

He must comply with the terms of his criminal probation.

A dissent from board member Rosalind E. Griffin, M.D. (presumably a public member) concludes that the sanction should be a 90-day suspension as the attorney "made a conscious decision to attempt to videotape his step-niece while she was changing clothes." (Mike Frisch)

March 26, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Remand In Fee Fight

A recent opinion of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court addresses a fight between lawyers over a substantial fee.

In these related cases, all parties are practicing Maine attorneys or Maine law firms. In both matters, (1) complaints, cross-claims, and counterclaims were filed in the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Wheeler, J.) asserting various theories of entitlement to all or part of a $1.24 million attorney fee generated in a civil judgment in another matter; (2) the court denied the motion of Daniel G. Lilley and Daniel G. Lilley Law Offices, P.A., to consolidate the matters for trial; and (3) the court proceeded to dispose of the cases through summary judgment on some claims, and dismissal or severance of others. Because we conclude that, with one exception, the court erred in denying the motion to consolidate the claims, we vacate the judgments except for that single claim and remand for further proceedings.

The underlying case involved medical malpractice.

The court found consolidation of the various attorney fee claims necessary to avoid a "piecemeal" resolution.

The court also dealt with the money held in escrow

to the extent that the court’s judgment against Flynn may suggest that Tucker is entitled to immediate payment from the attorney fees held in escrow, we make clear that these actions are not in rem proceedings against the money held in escrow. Rather, they are disputes arising from a series of contracts that may—or may not—be related to each other. The escrowed proceeds may—or may not—be sufficient to satisfy any liabilities created by the judgments to be entered in these actions. Accordingly, our opinion should not be construed to suggest that the aggregation of judgments that may result from these actions is limited to the amount of attorney fees now held in escrow. Similarly, whatever other avenues Tucker may have to collect on the judgment against Flynn, any distribution of the escrowed funds, which may or may not prove to include the amount that Flynn owes Tucker, must await resolution of the consolidated cases.

(Mike Frisch)

March 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obstruction Of Breathing Charge Gets Judge Suspended

The New York Court of Appeals has suspended a Green Island Town Court judge recently charged with domestic violence.

CBS 6 had a report on the charges

The Albany County Sheriff's office have arrested 45 year-old Jeffrey Dorrance, charging him with misdemeanor Criminal Obstruction of Breathing.

Police say they were contacted by Green Island Police, citing a potential conflict of interest with Dorrance serving as a judge.

Albany Police say the charges stemmed from a physical domestic violence incident that occurred over the weekend.

Dorrance was arraigned and released on his own recognizance.  He is due back in court on Tuesday.

(Mike Frisch)

March 26, 2015 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Funny, This Doesn't Look Like Chicago

An Illinois attorney has accepted consent to disbarment on these facts

Movant’s admissions and billing and expense records  from the Segal, McCambridge, Singer & Mahoney law firm ("the firm") would have  established the following:

Movant worked with the firm in its Chicago  office, concentrating his practice in the litigation of asbestos-related claims.  As part of his practice, Movant was required to travel to out-of-state  depositions and hearings, and he incurred expenses related to that travel that  he knew the firm would bill to its clients.

Beginning in approximately 2010, Movant  submitted information to the firm that fraudulently stated that he had incurred  travel-related and other expenses relating to the matters he was then handling  for the firm’s clients. For example, Movant would occasionally book a flight,  cancel his flight reservation, and then submit the original receipt to the firm  as part of a request that he be reimbursed for the purported expense as if he  had actually taken the flight. Movant received funds from the firm based on his  fraudulent requests for reimbursement, and he understood that the firm charged  its clients, and that the clients paid, the amounts Movant requested as  purported expense reimbursements.

The amount Movant sought as expense  reimbursement that he had not actually incurred exceeded $130,000 for the period  from 2010 through 2014, when Movant’s conduct was discovered and he resigned  from his position as a partner in the firm. During this same period, Movant also  provided the firm with inaccurate information about time he spent on client  matters, claiming, for example, that he had travelled to another city when he  actually was in Chicago at the time.

The matter now goes to the Illinois Supreme Court for final action. (Mike Frisch)

March 25, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wife's Support Helps Secure Attorney's Reinstatement

An attorney who was suspended for five years in 2009 for fee-related dishonest conduct in a single matter has secured reinstatement to practice by order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The violations

Petitioner represented an individual with marginal reading and writing abilities in a social security matter for which Petitioner's fee was paid in full from the proceeds of the award. Nonetheless, Petitioner sought from his client additional fees above the amount to which Petitioner was entitled. When Petitioner's client questioned the propriety of the additional fees, Petitioner took various actions to cover up his misconduct. These actions included misrepresentations to the Social Security Administration and Disciplinary Counsel.

While serving the suspension, the petitioner owned and operated a debt-collection agency.

The disciplinary board

The record supports the conclusion that Petitioner is morally qualified for reinstatement. Petitioner was candid and credible in his expression of remorse for his actions and the consequences of those actions. He did not attempt to minimize or deny his actions, nor did he attempt justification. His commitment to properly serve the profession was clearly and convincingly expressed in his testimony. While Petitioner's offenses were clearly egregious, there is no evidence that his misconduct went beyond the scope of this one particular client. Indeed, the individuals who testified on behalf of Petitioner noted this misconduct was very much out of character for Petitioner, and they believed it to be an isolated incident. Petitioner's wife noted the emotional impact on Petitioner caused by his actions, and the guilt he has experienced. She sincerely believes he has learned from his actions and has recognized his wrongdoing. Petitioner's character witnesses fully support his return to the practice of law, as they believe he has much to offer the legal profession. Petitioner's character letters are also feeling that his readmission to the bar would be positive for the community.

(Mike Frisch) 

March 25, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Caution!

An attorney who self-reported a sexual relationship with a law firm client has been cautioned by the Arkansas Committee on Professional Conduct

 Mr. Sarver’s then law firm represented a client in a civil matter, and during the course of his representation the two began a sexual relationship. The sexual relationship had not been in place prior to the commencement of the client-lawyer relationship. The lawyer-client relationship was in place when Mr. Sarver admitted this conduct in his December 23, 2013 letter to the Office of Professional Conduct and through follow-up communications with OPC.

Note that the violation is predicated on the law firm's representation of client rather than the attorney's personal involvement in the civil matter. (Mike Frisch)

March 25, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Throwing Out the Baby With The Bathwater

The Colorado Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved an eight-month suspension, with four months served and the balance stayed on probation of an attorney who had mishandled a medical malpractice case and then told the clients that the case was not worth pursuing

 In the 2012-2014 timeframe, Bath engaged in misconduct while representing a husband and wife in a medical malpractice case. He failed to comply with six court orders, such as orders regarding scheduling and the filing of status reports, even after the court entered notices of possible dismissal of the case. When opposing counsel moved to compel discovery and for costs and attorney’s fees, Bath never filed a response. The court entered a sanction of $8,499.87, but Bath never told his client of the award. He failed to advise his clients of a wide range of orders and motions, and he did not tell his clients about major developments, such as the resetting of the trial. In addition, Bath scheduled a deposition for one of his clients but did not advise the client of the deposition or attend it himself. He never told the clients about the missed deposition or that the defense requested additional costs as a result.

Ultimately, Bath told his clients that success in the case was unlikely and, without explaining the ramifications, advised them to agree to dismiss the case with prejudice. Thereafter, he negotiated a dismissal of the case with the condition that neither party would seek costs or fees, such as costs for the missed deposition. The clients later hired another attorney who successfully moved to reopen the case.

The two-year probation will involve monitoring of the attorney's practice. (Mike Frisch)

March 25, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecutor Ethics In Dealing With Unrepresented Defendants

A new ethics opinion from the Virginia State Bar

 This opinion examines the ethical duties of a prosecutor who offers a plea agreement to an unrepresented defendant whom the prosecutor has been informed is a noncitizen subject to deportation upon conviction under immigration law. Not all Virginia district courts conduct plea colloquies regarding a defendant’s understanding of the potential immigration law consequences of a conviction. In jurisdictions where such colloquies are not undertaken, a prosecutor may not knowingly take advantage of an unrepresented noncitizen defendant by making a plea offer which refers only to the state law disposition of the charge, and either makes no statement to the defendant of the defendant’s potential need to seek immigration law advice or fails to ask the court to conduct a colloquy with and give an advisement to the defendant in that regard.

With this disclaimer

This opinion is advisory only and not binding on any court or tribunal.

(Mike Frisch)

March 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Contempt Of Former Judge Affirmed

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has affirmed a contempt citation of an attorney (and former judge) for statements made on behalf of a pro se litigant after the matter was postponed due to lack of notice to the opposing counsel and part.

The attorney addressed the court and asked that the case be dismissed.

The transcript

MR. BROWN: If it pleases the tribunal, I will file a Petition for Habeas Corpus and close this place down like I did before if you make her come back here one more time.

THE COURT: Mr. Brown, you are very close to finding yourself in contempt.

MR. BROWN: Excuse me, on what authority do you sit by the way?

As a former judge here, we have a rule in the Thirtieth Judicial District. It says every single Magistrate Referee has to be unanimously approved by every Circuit, Chancery, and Criminal Court Judge. I don‟t recall that your name‟s ever been submitted, sir.

This tribunal on a General Sessions Court‟s authority is insufficient to establish you. Therefore I challenge your authority to hear it.

And by the way, what is that, Magistrate, sir, with due respect.

THE COURT: Mr. Brown, the Court finds you in contempt.

MR. BROWN: Here‟s ten dollars. That‟s all you‟ve got on me.

THE COURT: I sentence you to twenty-four day -- for twenty-four hours in the Shelby County jail.

MR. BROWN: You‟re out of it. The maximum---

THE COURT: You may have a seat.

MR. BROWN: I‟m not. Ten dollars. That‟s all you‟ve got. Twenty. Take the two.

THE COURT: Get the bailiffs.

MR. BROWN: Go find the law or I‟m reporting you to the Court of Judiciary. I‟ll have you charged with violation of process. Now you want to get into this, let‟s get into it. This sorry operation needs to stop.

THE COURT: Twenty-four hours in the Shelby County jail for contempt. You may have a seat.

MR. BROWN: Excuse me.

THE COURT: Do you wish to have another twenty-four hours?

MR. BROWN: If you try to do this you need to straighten yourself up and you cite your authority.

THE COURT: Do you wish to have a second day, Mr. Brown?

MR. BROWN: What did you say?

THE COURT: Do you wish to have a second day?

MR. BROWN: A second date?

THE COURT: Day.

MR. BROWN: Day?

THE COURT: Yes, sir.

MR. BROWN: I tell you what. You cite the authority. You find it. I looked it up before I came in here. You have ten dollars maximum contempt jurisdiction. Now you jump in here.

THE COURT: That‟s two days in the Shelby County jail. Do you wish to continue?

MR. BROWN: Okay. Okay, I‟ll tell you what. I‟ll be out of here very shortly on a Petition for Habeas Corpus, and I‟ll bring up all these problems, and guess what, you might not be operating tomorrow.

THE COURT: Have a seat, Sir.

MR. BROWN: Okay, as a courtesy to the officers, I‟ll do that. Mmm-huh.

THE COURT: Alright.

MR. BROWN: It‟s a circus, sir.

THE COURT: That‟s three days.

MR. BROWN: You can do all you want.

THE COURT: Four days.

MR. BROWN: You don‟t have the jurisdiction I had to do it. You‟ve got to be up above a trial judge. You‟ve got ten dollars.

THE COURT: Five days.

MR. BROWN: I offered you ten dollars.

The summary criminal contempt was affirmed.

ABA Journal reports that the contemnor is a former TV judge. (Mike Frisch)

March 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Walking Judge May Serve As Team Captain

A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

ISSUE ONE

May a judge, as a member of the Board of Directors of a District Court of  Appeal Historical Society, encourage others to participate in a walk/run  fundraiser that is sponsored by a bar association when the funds will support  the bar association’s pro bono project?

ANSWER: No, unless the solicitation is limited to judges  over whom the judge exercises no supervisory or appellate authority.

ISSUE TWO

 May a judge  participate in a walk/run fundraiser as a team captain and coordinate logistics  for the team, such as snacks and T-shirts, when the project supports the bar  association’s pro bono projects?

ANSWER: Yes.

Reasoning

Notwithstanding  the Code’s prohibition on direct solicitation of funds, the Code encourages  other participation in activities involving the law, the legal system, and the  administration of justice, when the funds are used for a law related purpose. Therefore,  pursuant to Canon 4D, the inquiring judge may be involved in planning the  event, may be featured in the program as a team captain, and may permit the  judge’s title to be used in conjunction with the event. Furthermore, the Code  permits active participation in the event, such as participating in the  walk/run itself and providing logistical support, such as arranging for  T-shirts and providing concessions.

Therefore,  because this is a function being sponsored by a law related organization, the  fundraiser concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of  justice, and the funds are used for a law related purpose, the inquiring judge  may participate as a team member and team captain and may otherwise actively  participate in the event, but may not personally or directly solicit others to  participate unless such persons are other judges over whom the judge exercises  no supervisory or appellate authority.

(Mike Frisch)

March 24, 2015 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kisses, Hugs And A Suspension

A bar discipline decision from the Indiana Supreme Court

 We find that Respondent... engaged in a course of attorney misconduct in connection with his efforts to patronize a prostitute. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be suspended from the practice of law in this state for at least one year without automatic reinstatement.

The facts

H.S., using a fictitious name, had placed an online classified advertisement for escort services that listed her cell phone number. At some point, H.S. was arrested by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ("IMPD") for engaging in prostitution.

At relevant times, Respondent was employed as a public defender. Respondent had seen and remembered H.S.’s classified advertisement, and when Respondent came across a police report containing the same phone number, he was able to determine specific arrest information regarding H.S. and thereafter identify her.

On or about November 30, 2012, Respondent sent a text message to H.S.’s cell phone, apparently without realizing that H.S.’s phone was in IMPD’s possession. An officer impersonating H.S. responded to that text as well as several other texts and calls from Respondent during the next several days. In those communications, Respondent indicated he could help H.S. with her situation, falsely stated he had been given information about her from a former client, said he would "work with" H.S. regarding her attorney fees, and set up an appointment to meet her.

On December 4, Respondent met in a hotel room with an undercover IMPD officer impersonating H.S. Respondent attempted to hug and kiss the officer, made statements conveying that he wanted sex in return for his legal services, and began to undress. Respondent then was arrested for patronizing a prostitute. After his arrest, Respondent gave a statement to police admitting that he had used information obtained through his employment as a public defender to attempt to meet H.S. under the pretense of discussing her pending criminal case, and that his intention in doing so was to have sex or fellatio in exchange for providing legal services.

The bad news

 The Court concludes that Respondent violated the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct by, among other things, patronizing a prostitute and attempting to obtain sex or fellatio in exchange for legal services. For Respondent's professional misconduct, the Court suspends Respondent from the practice of law in this state for a period of not less than one year, without automatic reinstatement, effective immediately.

March 24, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Second Attorney Charged In Death Penalty Defense Litigation

We recently reported on (and were highly critical of) ethics charges filed in North Carolina against an ACLU attorney for her role in preparing two affidavits for use in a death penalty appeal.

The charges:

Failure to act with reasonable diligence by failing to follow up on the discrepancies between the interview and trial transcript and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice "[b]y failing, prior to moving to introduce into evidence the affidavits... to ensure that the information contained in the affidavits that could be verified by referencing the trial transcript comported with the trial transcript."

Note that the allegations do not involve the knowing offering or use of false testimony. Nor is there a charge of misleading the tribunal. Finally, there is no allegation that the attorney presented legally frivolous arguments. 

The mere fact that there are inconsistencies between an affidavit and  rough notes does not, in my view, remotely establish an ethical violation. Nor does the fact that assertions put in an affidavit do not track the trial record.

In an adversary system, inconsistencies and arguable propositions exist in every case. The duty to diligently represent a client facing the death penalty - to push the envelope - requires the attorney to shed her life's blood for her client. 

I find these charges hard to understand.

Well, the State Bar was not content with those charges and has now filed a complaint against a second attorney on what are essentially the same allegations.

The accused attorney is the Director of Post-Conviction Litigation for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Multiplication of the charged attorneys, in my view, adds nothing to this misbegotten prosecution.

I hope and expect that first-rate volunteer lawyers will represent these attorneys. (Mike Frisch)

March 23, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge's Facebook Post Draws Sanctions

The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to a 30-day suspension of a judge, according to this article in the Orlando Sentinel.

Judge Debra Krause on Friday agreed to a 30-day suspension for using her Facebook page to criticize the lawyer who defeated her husband, Mitch Krause, in a judicial race in November.

Judge Krause, 40, of Longwood, on Aug. 5 used Facebook, urging friends to "flood" the Facebook campaign page of now-Circuit Judge Susan Stacy and accuse her of misrepresenting Mitch Krause's involvement in his wife's previous judicial ethics case.

 

The Sentinel's Rene Stutzman had this earlier report

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday recommended that Seminole County Judge Debra Krause be suspended without pay for 30 days for a Facebook post that suggested the woman who defeated her husband in a judicial election was a liar.

 That suspension would amount to $11,500 in lost pay.

It is on top of a $25,000 fine the court wants imposed on Krause for a different set of violations, all associated with her 2012 campaign for office.                

 On Wednesday the high court said those two cases – the 2014 Facebook post and the 2012 campaign violations – should be handled separately and that Krause should be disciplined for each one.

In November, the state agency that polices judges, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, reached the equivalent of a plea deal with Krause and agreed to combine the two and impose no new punishment.

The sanctions they had agreed to for the first breach – a $25,000 fine and public reprimand – would cover both, the two sides said.

 But the high court rejected that idea.

The court said Wednesday that the penalty for the first breach would remain the same, but she should be suspended without pay for a month for what she wrote on Facebook.

On Aug. 5 she urged people to flood the Facebook page of now-Circuit Judge Susan Stacy, who was running against Krause's husband, Mitchell Krause, with messages accusing her of misrepresenting his role in the campaign violations Judge Krause admitted making in 2012.

Those include Judge Krause reporting that she loaned her campaign up to $82,000 when, in reality, the money was a gift from her husband.

Judge Krause did not return a phone call Wednesday.

Central Florida judges are rarely suspended. In 2010 Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge N. James Turner was suspended with pay for a year and a half by then-Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. while Turner was investigated for repeatedly hugging an Osceola County courthouse deputy clerk.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered him suspended without pay the following year then removed him from the bench.

In a separate case, the JQC recommended that Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Tim Shea be suspended without pay for two months in 2012 because of complaints that he bullied attorneys, but the high court concluded that a public reprimand was sufficient.

In the cases of Judge Krause, Wednesday's action by the high court may not be the final word.

In its order, it gave her and the JQC 30 days to accept or reject the proposed suspension.

Stutzman also had the post itself

"Susan Stacey [sic] is again misrepresenting. … to try and make Mitch look unethical and without integrity. Could you all take a minute and POST on Ms. Stacey's [sic] campaign site that having ethics and integrity means TELLING THE TRUTH! Please post as soon as possible. I want to flood the post!"

The judge closed with, "THANK YOU and have an ethical day!!!!"

(Mike Frisch)

March 23, 2015 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Working In The Blagojevich Administration

The Illinois Review Board has recommended a 60-day suspension for false statements in an employment application

Respondent was licensed in 1994. At the time of his  hearing, he stated he was a sole practitioner. After obtaining his law license,  Respondent held a number of positions including a position as a clerk in the  Circuit Court of Cook County. In 2002, while unemployed, Respondent volunteered  for Rod Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign and later volunteered in the Office  of the Governor. As set forth in the Administrator's complaint, Respondent then  sought assistance from employees in Blagojevich's office to obtain state  employment. In April 2003, Respondent was asked to complete an Illinois  Department of Central Management Services Examining/Employment Application ("CMS  100"). On the application, Respondent stated he was counsel for a company called  Codevco from "2003 to the present", worked forty hours a week and earned $800 a  week. These statements were false; Respondent was never an employee of Codevco.  After obtaining a position for a four year term as an attorney with DCFS, DCFS  requested verification of Respondent's employment and salary at Codevco.  Respondent then asked his father to provide a letter verifying his employment.  At Respondent's request, his father submitted a letter falsely stating that  Respondent was an employee of Codevco and falsely stating that Respondent earned  $1800 per week. When Respondent's four year term expired, he sought to be  re-appointed to a position at the DCFS and he again submitted a false CMS 100.

In sum

Respondent engaged in the deliberate misrepresentations to obtain a job with a  public agency. He also induced his father to lie for him. For these reasons, we  conclude that a sixty day suspension adequately addresses Respondent's  misconduct.

The Administrator had sought a nine-month suspension. (Mike Frisch)

March 23, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May State Bar Discipline A Judge?

We recently reported on disciplinary charges brought against a judge for alleged misconduct in his judicial capacity.

The judge has filed a motion to dismiss the allegations in which he contends that (1) the State Bar lacks jurisdiction over the matter as he was not engaged in the practice of law, (2) the prior inquiry by the Judicial Standards Commission creates an estoppel of the present charges and (3) he has been denied due process of law.

The News Observer reported on recent  legislative support for the judge, who was reprimanded by judicial authorities

A state senator is trying to help a Superior Court judge in his district escape sanctions from the N.C. State Bar, which regulates lawyers in North Carolina.

Sen. Bill Cook, a three-term Republican legislator from Beaufort County, says he thinks Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett shouldn’t have to risk losing his license to practice law because he was already sanctioned by the state Judicial Standards Commission.

The State Bar is basing its disciplinary case against the judge on the same issues that led to a sanction from the Judicial Standards Commission. The judge received a “public reprimand” two years ago for misuse of power in a dispute with the Kill Devil Hills police chief and the county’s district attorney.

Cook said Friday that he filed a bill, Senate Bill 323, to protect Tillett and any judge who finds himself or herself in that situation. He filed the bill Wednesday, two days after the State Bar posted its March 6 complaint against Tillett on its website.

(Mike Frisch)

March 23, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Failure To Pay Sanctions, Notify Bar, Draws Proposed Suspension

The California State Bar Court Review Department agreed with a hearing judge that a 30-day actual suspension is the appropriate sanction for an attorney's failure to timely pay a civil sanction and report the sanction to the State Bar.

The court rejected the suggestion that the failure to pay did not violate ethical obligations

Where an attorney is aware that sanctions have been ordered, payment is required within a "reasonable time." ( In the Matter of Respondent Y (Review Dept. 1998) 3 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 862, 867.) Anyiam stipulated that he had actual knowledge of the sanctions order on October 14, 2010, but did not pay any portion until October 28, 2013. His failure to pay $4,000 in fees and sanctions for more than three years establishes his culpability under section 6103. (See id. at p. 868 [failure to pay sanctions more than one year after order issued not reasonable and violated § 6103].) Similarly, Anyiam is culpable of failing to timely report the $1,000 judicial sanction because he knew about it when it was imposed, yet he waited more than two years to report it. (See id. at p. 867 [failure to report sanctions three months after respondent learned of order is violation of § 6068, subd. (o)(3)].)

The knowledge element

 Anyiam’s claim that he did not know the order’s due date is contradicted by Ibay’s credible testimony that: (1) the superior court judge announced the 30-day deadline in open court; (2) Ibay faxed Anyiam three demand letters when payment became overdue; (3) Ibay asked for payment of the overdue sanctions and fees during multiple conversations with Anyiam; and (4) Ibay served Anyiam with the OSCs, supporting declaration, and exhibits reciting the 30-day deadline. In addition, the portion of the OSC that Anyiam admits he received clearly states the November 13, 2010 payment deadline...

The court rejected the attorney's request for a reproval, citing his lack of candor. (Mike Frisch)

 

March 23, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Getting Personal

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered a 30-day suspension of a Shreveport City judge who had abused her contempt power against a city prosecutor with whom she had an adversary relationship prior to assuming judicial office.

The prosecutor's office instructed its attorneys to interact with the judge through a designated person. The contempt came because the city prosecutor followed that directive.

Judge Sims’ actions resulted from her personal feelings towards Ms.Gilmer and her perception that Ms. Gilmer lacked respect for her. But Judge Sims’ actions cannot be viewed in a vacuum. We must give some consideration to the context of Judge Sims’ actions in light of her adversarial relationship with Ms. Gilmer, and in light of Ms. Gilmer’s actions. As a judge, it is certainly understandable that Judge Sims was frustrated regarding Ms. Gilmer’s failure to agree to a meeting. And, the record supports Judge Sims’ assertions that Ms. Gilmer failed to directly respond to some of her requests for a meeting. While Judge Sims’ conduct cannot be condoned, it is not unreasonable that Judge Sims felt ignored and disrespected.

The judge got mad and then got even

The Commission found that Judge Sims committed bad faith legal errors by holding Ms. Gilmer in contempt for conduct that was not contemptuous and for sua sponte dismissing the fifteen criminal cases without legal authority to do so. Based on Judge Sims’ bad faith legal errors, the Commission found by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Sims failed to personally observe a high standard of conduct so as to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary, in violation of Canon 1; failed to respect and comply with the law and to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, in violation of Canon 2A; and failed to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it, in violation of Canon 3A(1). We agree.

The court rejected the Judiciary Commission's proposed 90-day suspension.

Justice Guidry dissented on the sanction

I dissent in part from the majority’s imposition of a suspension of thirty days without pay. Because this was a relatively newly-elected judge faced with a somewhat unusual directive from the City Attorney that assistant city prosecutors could not meet with city court judges to discuss administrative matters except upon notice to the City Attorney, and because the judge has accepted responsibility and learned from her misconduct, I would simply censure the judge pursuant to La. Const. art. V, § 25(C), and order her to reimburse the Judiciary Commission’s costs. 

(Mike Frisch)

March 22, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process, Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 20, 2015

No Purpose But To Harass

A one-year suspension has been imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for an attorney's involvement in a pattern of bad faith litigation, dishonesty and failure to cooperate in the bar proceedings.

The attorney previously was suspended as a result of the non-cooperation.

The facts were unusual and complex

we note that Attorney Isaacson is not alleged to have acted as an attorney in this disciplinary proceeding.  Rather, she is a licensed Wisconsin attorney who engaged in misconduct while serving in the capacity as an officer or managing member of a corporate entity and its subsidiaries.  Specifically, Attorney Isaacson was the Chief Executive Officer of Dr. R. C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology, Inc., known as "SIST," together with its wholly owned subsidiaries and limited liability companies. The complaint identifies several somewhat interrelated litigation proceedings in which Attorney Isaacson participated.  She prepared and signed affidavits, declarations, or responses in these matters which were filed on her behalf.  The core of the complaint is that Attorney Isaacson's statements in these documents had no apparent purpose other than to harass judicial officers, public officials, opposing counsel, and others based on race, creed, and religion. 

As the referee observed, it is difficult to summarize the verbose and grandiose allegations leveled by Attorney Isaacson against the courts generally, specific judges, other counsel, appointed officers, and third parties.  The OLR's complaint contains over 70 paragraphs providing detailed context for and quoting from specific sworn and verified statements she made in court filings.  A few examples must suffice to convey the nature of Attorney Isaacson's statements...

E.g.

"Shawano is Neo-Nazi territory where it is believed people of other races and religions have no right to life," and referred to the "underlying White Supremacist feelings and beliefs and Jim Crow mentality held by many persons in Shawano."  She declared that the "[d]efendant's experience of 'justice' in Shawano is comparable to the 'justice' Jews experienced under Hitler's regime."

"[t]rying a matter in Minnesota is like sending the Jews back to Germany during the Holocaust."

Attorney Isaacson made reference to trustees, variously, as a "dirty Catholic inquisitor," a "Jesuitess," and a "priest's boy," and referred to various judges as a "black-robed bigot," a "Jesuit judge," and a "Catholic Knight Witch Hunter."  She stated that court systems, "particularly the Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota, are composed of a bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church."

The court

We agree that Attorney Isaacson's misconduct warrants a one-year suspension of her license to practice law in Wisconsin.  She repeatedly made frivolous and harassing personal attacks and discriminatory statements in numerous documents filed in various matters.  She continued to make false statements about members of the judiciary and others after being formally sanctioned for her conduct.  Based on the record presented, we are satisfied that a one-year suspension is sufficient in view of the seriousness of her professional misconduct and will serve to deter similar behavior and protect the public from similar misconduct in the future.

TwinCities.com had this coverage of the litigation. (Mike Frisch)

March 20, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Nearly Ever Wrong Possible"

The Iowa Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for one year as a result of serious issues uncovered during an audit of his trust account.

The attorney is a solo practitioner admitted in 1973.

The audit revealed that his trust accounts were a mess.

The problem was exacerbated by the failure to pay taxes, several years in which he had falsely certified that his accounts were compliant with ethical obligations and failure to cooperate with the bar process.

Notably, the court rejected charges that he had improperly used a trade name.

The court

Here, Cross mismanaged the trust account, commingled client funds with his own, failed to deposit unearned fees and expenses into the trust account, withdrew fees and expenses before they were earned, failed to maintain proper records, and failed to provide clients with contemporaneous written notifications and accountings of withdrawals from the trust account. These violations persisted for over four years. As the auditor aptly put it in the audit report, "Cross completely lost control and accountability for client funds deposited in his trust account" and "committed nearly every wrong possible in handling client funds and managing an attorney’s trust account."

He must enter into agreements to pay off his tax obligations to secure reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)

March 20, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bar Complaint Not Unethical

An accomplished DUI defense was found to have violated three court orders in two DUI cases and should be suspended for 30 days, according to an unpublished recommendation of the California State Bar Court Review Department.

The attorney has practiced for 30 years without prior discipline.

Notable (and perhaps publication-worthy) was the court's findings of no misconduct in the attorney's filing a bar complaint against a prosecutor

No published case law interprets section 6043.5. As urged by OCTC, we conclude that it must show three things to prevail: (1) the complaint was false; (2) Genis knew it was false; and (3) he acted maliciously. We find OCTC has failed to demonstrate the first element — falsity. The facts stated in the State Bar complaint are true, in that the deputy provided discovery to new counsel before he was officially entitled to receive it. However, OCTC also argues Genis’s interpretation of the Penal Code section was "false" because the statute does not apply to prosecutors. In support of its position, OCTC offers a plain language reading of the statute, but concedes that no case law supports its interpretation. As a preliminary matter, we question how an interpretation of a statute can be construed as false because it is a legal question, not a question of fact. Further, OCTC’s statutory interpretation is not authority upon which we may rely. Finding OCTC has not established falsity of the State Bar complaint, we affirm the hearing judge and dismiss Count One with prejudice.

The court further concluded that the report to the bar was not an act of dishonesty.

The recommendation is for two years of probation after the suspension. (Mike Frisch)

March 19, 2015 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)