Monday, February 1, 2010

Lawyer-Juror Misconduct Findings Upheld

An update on a high-profile bar discipline case from the California Bar Journal's February 2010 web page:

Francis Thomas Fahy was disbarred July 21, 2009, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20.

Fahy appealed a State Bar Court hearing judge’s findings that while acting as a civil trial juror in a 2004 medical negligence case, Fahy voted in favor of the defendant, whom he believed was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, in order to end a likely jury deadlock so that he could return to his law practice. When questioned by the trial judge, Fahy misrepresented the reasons for his vote.

Fahy argued his innocence, but the bar court’s review department upheld the disbarment recommendation because Fahy’s “acts went beyond dereliction of his duties as an attorney to follow the law when sworn to act as a trial juror.”

The trial went on for several weeks and when the jury could not reach a verdict despite several votes, Fahy told jurors “that if the judge would not declare a mistrial, [he] would change his vote for the defense to break the deadlock so he could return his attention to his law practice.” Under questioning by the trial judge, Fahy “stated that he acted only within the court’s instructions and the trial evidence,” according to the review department. He also told the judge his signature on a declaration was forged, signed by him by mistake or he was tricked into signing it.

The judge granted a new trial, in part because Fahy’s testimony was “obfuscating and not credible.”

The hearing judge found that Fahy violated his duties as a juror and committed an act of moral turpitude by making misrepresentations to the judge.

Shortly after his trial before the bar, Fahy was suspended for misappropriating trust funds from a client, and for failing to report his receipt of funds, maintain those funds in a trust account or promptly pay them to his client.

The review panel rejected Fahy’s argument that he was prevented from presenting exculpatory evidence. Instead, it found the conclusion that he violated his duties as a juror “inescapable” and his dishonesty to the judge “reprehensible conduct.”

Fahy filed a federal civil rights action against the Supreme Court, the State Bar Court and the bar attorneys handling his case.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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