Monday, April 30, 2012

No Clean Skirt

The Iowa Supreme Court has suspended an attorney without possibility of reinstatement for one year.

The attorney had previously been suspended for three months. He had "burned out" of law practice and neglected two matters while transitioning to a teaching career. He was reinstated in 2008.

Here, he forged a guilty plea document on behalf of a client charged with second offense operating while intoxicated. As a result, the client got a seven-day jail sentence.

The attorney did not file formal pleadings in the bar matter. Rather, he sent a letter and an email:

[The attorney] attempted to skirt the formal adversary process by defending himself throgh two self-termed "informal note[s]" He presented no sworn evidence on his behalf, nor was he subject to cross-examination...We similarly expect  attorneys to defend themselves within the formal adjudicatory procedures provided in our court rules. Accordingly, we do not give any weight to [his] letter or email denying certain Board alllegations.

The charges were thus established by default. (Mike Frisch)

April 30, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Board Recommends Disgrace Be Erased

It must the season of forgiveness.

The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended the reinstatement of an attorney disbarred in 2003. While the board majority acknowledged that the petitioner failed to satisfy reinstatement criteria that included compliance with the order of disbarment, it found "good and sufficient reasons why he should nevertheless be readmitted to practice law."

The board "took note" of a dissent from the original disbarment order opining that a lengthy supension was "a more appropriate sanction." The petitioner had experienced a number of tragic circumstances at the time of the misconduct and presented numerous character witnesses. He had housed as many as 80 volunteer ministers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Petitioner is 77 years old and wanted "to erase the disgrace he feels he brought upon himself and his family."

There is a dissent of three members who note that the reinstatement criteria "calls upon the Petitioner, even if unable to again pass the Bar, which is understandable, to demonstrate [current competence to practice law]...If one really wanted one's license back, it seems he would have done far more than Petitioner did in trying to carry his burden in the re-admission process." 

There is a problem with the link. You should be able to access the report at this link under the name Lawrence Sledge. (Mike Frisch) 

April 30, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wife Can't Supervise Reinstated Husband

Another entry on the reinstatement to practice issue comes from a unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court, which granted the petition of an attorney who has been suspended since the mid-1990s for multiple acts of ethical misconduct.

The court accepted the favorable recommendation of a referee with some reservations and conditions:

Although we determine that Attorney Woodard has now satisfied the criteria for reinstatement, we agree with the referee that some additional conditions on Attorney Woodard's return to the practice of law are appropriate.  We are particularly concerned about Attorney Woodard's stated intention to practice by himself in his own law firm or in conjunction with just his wife.  As the referee noted, the rules regarding the handling of client trust funds and advance fees have changed considerably in the more than 15 years that have passed since Attorney Woodard last practiced law.  Moreover, much of Attorney Woodard's misconduct involved violations of the rules governing client trust accounts and the financial side of attorney/client relationships.  We are not convinced that allowing Attorney Woodard to practice by himself in his own firm with only an outside mentor attorney or with just his wife sufficiently ensures Attorney Woodard's successful reintegration into the practice of law.  Consequently, we determine that in order to ensure that Attorney Woodard does not lapse into a repetition of the misconduct that led to his suspension and revocation, his first three years of practice following reinstatement should be in a law firm or organization where he is subject to the direct supervision of another attorney.  Further, in order to eliminate the temptation of merely relying on the trust that exists between spouses rather than providing direct supervision, we further direct that the supervising attorney must be someone other than Attorney Woodard's spouse.  We also agree with the referee that continuing legal education regarding fee agreements and client trust accounts is appropriate.

Perhaps if someone can't be trusted to practice without direct supervision, that someone should not have a law license. (Mike Frisch)

April 28, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"The Lens Of Public Protection" Sees Reinstatement

The Colorado Hearing Board has granted the reinstatement petition of a suspended attorney who, while driving under the influence of alcohol, caused the death of an Air Force veteran just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.

The attorney was suspended for two years as a result of the 2004 incident, has completed his prison sentence and is presently serving his parole.

The question of readmitting a suspended attorney while still on parole was one of first impression in Colorado.

The Hearing Board acknowledged that the petitioner's parole conditions, which include a prohibition against driving and limitations on travel "will create some practical impediments to running an efficient law practice."

The Hearing Board stated that the petition "should be examined through the lens of public protection, rather than based on the results of the misconduct."

The board noted that the petitioner had no other discipline and that the conduct was unlikely to reoccur. Petitioner testified he has not consumed alcohol since the incident.

The People had argued that petitioner lacked remorse. The Hearing Board noted that he had sued Mothers Against Drunk Driving and his own counsel in the bar proceedings, but found these post-accident suits did not preclude reinstatement. Petitioner said he was sorry he had filed those lawsuits.

The mother and father of the deceased testified in the proceeding. The Hearing Board states that it was "moved by the testimony" and "considered their grief in making this very difficult decision."

I suspect these two members of the public see this case through a different lens than the hearing board.

The original suspension order is linked here. Note that petitioner had argued that a public censure was the appropriate sanction for his vehicular homicide (DUI) conviction. (Mike Frisch)

April 28, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 27, 2012

No Arbitration in Law Firm Employment Dispute

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has held that a law firm employee is not bound by an earlier agreement to arbitrate:

The record shows that the parties entered into an employment agreement that contained a broad arbitration clause. The agreement also provided that it could not be extended except by a writing signed by both parties. At the time of plaintiff's termination, the employment agreement had expired by its own terms, and no written agreement signed by both parties had extended it. Although plaintiff continued to work for defendant law firm after the expiration of the agreement, evincing an agreement to extend some of the provisions of the contract, that was insufficient to extend the arbitration provision without a clearly expressed intention to do so. Accordingly, since no agreement to arbitrate existed at the time of plaintiff's termination, the court improperly stayed the proceedings and directed arbitration. (citation omitted)

(Mike Frisch)

April 27, 2012 in Law & Business, Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Credit Card Payments Not Commingling

In response to a petition by the Joint Committee on Attorney Standards, the North Dakota Supreme Court has adopted amendments to its rule on safekeeping property.

The new language is underscored below:

(b) A lawyer may accept credit card payments or electronic funds transfer payments for unearned fees as temporary deposits into the lawyer's general operating account if the funds in which a client or a third-party has an interest are promptly transferred from the general operating account to the client trust account. A lawyer may deposit the lawyer's own funds in a client trust account only for the purpose of paying bank service charges, and fees associated with credit card payments, or wire transfers electronic funds transfer payments related to that account, but only in an amount necessary for that purpose.

Such conduct would have violated the proscription against commingling prior to the change. (Mike Frisch)

April 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Secretary Of State Suspended

The Indiana Supreme Court has issued an interim suspension of former Secretary of State Charles White as a result of felony convictions.

IndyStar reported on the court's action:

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday suspending White’s law license on an interim basis effective May 10th because of his convictions earlier this year on six felonies including vote fraud, perjury and theft.

The charges stem from using his ex-wife’s address as his voting address when he was serving on the Fishers Town Council and running for secretary of state in 2010.

The suspernsion will remain in effect until disciplinary proceedings based on the conviction are concluded. (Mike Frisch)

April 27, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Intellectual Property

The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint that alleges, among other things, the following:

1. Prior to May 15, 2010, Respondent was a partner in the Ladas & Parry LLP ("Ladas") law firm. Ladas is an international intellectual property law firm with a Chicago office. Respondent began working at Ladas in 2002 and became a partner in 2008.

2. On at least five occasions from January 10, 2010 through May 14, 2010, Respondent downloaded at least 75,000 electronic files from Ladas’ computer network onto his own external memory devices. Those documents included Ladas’ client files, a client directory, the firm’s foreign associate directory, and other electronic files, such as forms and templates.

3. On April 19, 2010, Respondent incorporated William Park & Associates, Ltd. ("Park & Associates"), an Illinois law firm through which Respondent intended to engage in the practice of patent law. Between April 19, 2010 and May 15, 2010, while still a Ladas partner, Respondent undertook efforts to set up his own firm, including leasing office space and creating firm letterhead.

4. On May 14, 2010, three Ladas partners confronted Respondent about his intention to open his own firm in competition with Ladas, and requested that he immediately leave the Ladas firm’s office. Thereafter, the Ladas firm began the process of terminating Respondent’s employment. On May 25, 2010, Respondent, through counsel, sent Ladas a letter stating that he had resigned effective May 14, 2010.

5. On May 17, 2010, counsel for Ladas sent Respondent a litigation hold letter notifying Respondent that Ladas planned to file a lawsuit against him. Respondent received Ladas’ letter, sent via email and overnight delivery, shortly thereafter. The litigation hold letter stated that Respondent should not destroy, modify or discard any electronic or hard copy records or evidence relating to, among other things, his alleged misappropriation of trade secrets and his alleged solicitation of Ladas’ clients.

6. On May 21, 2010, Respondent began deleting from his external memory devices the files he had downloaded from Ladas’ computer network, as described in paragraph two, above. By deleting files on May 21, 2010, Respondent acted contrary to the provisions of the litigation hold letter described in paragraph five, above.

7. On May 24, 2010, Ladas filed a complaint against Respondent in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which the court received and docketed as Ladas & Parry, LLP v. W. William Park et al., 2010 CH 22152 (Circuit Court of Cook County). In that complaint, Ladas alleged that Respondent had breached his fiduciary duties to the firm and had misappropriated trade secrets by downloading Ladas’ documents and soliciting Ladas’ clients prior to leaving the firm. Ladas requested that the court enter a temporary restraining order ("TRO") against Respondent.

8. On May 25, 2010, Respondent’s counsel accepted service of Ladas’ Summons and Verified Complaint in case number 2010 CH 22152. Respondent learned of the summons and complaint shortly thereafter.

9. Also on May 25, 2010, Respondent continued to delete from his external memory devices additional files he had downloaded from Ladas’ computer network. By deleting files on May 25, 2010, Respondent acted contrary to the provisions of the litigation hold letter described in paragraph five, above.

10. On May 26, 2010, counsel for Ladas served a Motion for Expedited Discovery on Respondent’s counsel and attached proposed interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Respondent learned of that motion shortly thereafter.

11. Also on May 26, 2010, Respondent continued to delete from his external memory devices additional files he had downloaded from Ladas’ computer network. By deleting files on May 26, 2010, Respondent acted contrary to the provisions of the litigation hold letter described in paragraph five, above.

12. On May 27, 2010, the Hon. Daniel A. Riley entered an order granting Ladas’ motion for a TRO. Among other things, the TRO barred Respondent from accessing, copying, summarizing, forwarding, downloading, or using the electronic files that he had downloaded from Ladas; ordered Respondent to surrender all external memory devices to which he had downloaded Ladas files; and prohibited Respondent from soliciting Ladas clients. Respondent learned of that order shortly thereafter.

13. Also on May 27, 2010, Respondent continued to delete from his external memory devices additional files he had downloaded from Ladas’ computer network.

14. Between May 21, 2010 and May 27, 2010, Respondent deleted from his external memory devices a total of 90 files that he had previously downloaded from Ladas’ computer network.

15. Respondent deleted the 90 files from the external memory devices because he believed these files were damaging to his defense in case number 2010 CH 22152.

16. Respondent caused 88 of the 90 deleted files to be overwritten and irretrievable.

17. On May 28, 2010, pursuant to the May 27, 2010 TRO, Respondent surrendered seven memory devices to Reveal Data Corporation, a third party neutral approved by the court in case number 2010 CH 22152 to receive the devices.

18. Between May 28, 2010 and November 15, 2010, Jerry Saperstein ("Saperstein"), a computer forensic specialist, conducted a forensic examination of the external memory devices surrendered by Respondent.

19. During his examination of the external memory devices, Saperstein discovered Respondent’s deletion of the 90 files referred to in paragraph 14, above.

20. On November 15, 2010, Ladas filed a motion for sanctions in case number 2010 CH 22152 alleging that Respondent had deliberately destroyed evidence relevant to the litigation prior to surrendering his memory devices pursuant to the court’s TRO.

21. On July 15, 2011, the Hon. Mary J. Mikva entered an order sanctioning Respondent based on her finding that Respondent had deliberately destroyed documents contained on the memory devices prior to surrendering those devices pursuant to the TRO. The court issued a jury instruction adverse to Respondent, ordered Respondent to pay Ladas $58,819.74 for fees and costs, and entered a permanent injunction prohibiting Respondent from accessing, copying, summarizing, forwarding, downloading, or in any way using any files that he had downloaded from Ladas.

22. As of April 4, 2012, (the date Panel D of the Commission Inquiry Board voted that a complaint be filed in this matter), case number 2010 CH 22152 remained pending.

(Mike Frisch)


April 26, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Testimony Of Three (Ex) Wives

The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of an attorney for the murder of his wife.

The court found no error in the admission of testimony of the defendant/attorney's three prior wives who provided "similar transaction evidence" of his violence.

The defendant called 911 on February 15, 2009 to report that his wife had blood all over her. She had been stabbed 31 times. He told investigators that he and his wife had no problems and were planning a Valentine's Day dinner. He was arrested and charged with the crime.

Ex-wife One testified that he beat her with a coke bottle when she refused to have sex with him. Ex-wife Two testified that he threw her into a glass-topped dining table after they had separated. Ex-wife Three (who was married to him for 22 years and who was also his law partner) testified he threatened to kill her, their daughter and himself with a shotgun. This last incident was precipitated by his anger over the daughter's phone bill.

The court found these prior incidents were properly admitted.

The case was featured on 48 Hours Mystery.

The defendant's last name is McNaughton but he apparently did not offer an insanity defense. (Mike Frisch)

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missing Links

In the movie The Social Network, the character Erica Albright tells Mark Zuckerberg that the Internet isn't written in pencil but in ink.

This post from the Georgetown Law web page suggests that it may be disappearing ink with respect to links to legal reports:

The Georgetown Law Library and members of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group have released new data that shows within a five-year period, nearly 38 percent of online legal reports and web pages preserved through the library’s efforts have disappeared from their original web addresses.

"The results of this study demonstrate the importance of web preservation efforts for law scholars, students, practitioners and researchers," said Georgetown Law Librarian Michelle M. Wu. "And the release is timely during this celebration of National Preservation Week 2012."

For the past five years, the Georgetown Law Library and the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group have revisited a single sample of web addresses, or URLs, to examine their stability over time. The prevalence of link rot in the sample has steadily increased every year since 2008 when it was found to be 8.3 percent.

The 2012 analysis reveals that 37.7 percent of the online publications in the sample have disappeared from their original web addresses. However, due to the Georgetown Law Library and the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group’s web archiving efforts, all of these publications have been preserved and can found online at

The sample used in the study includes 579 original URLs for law- and policy-related materials that have been captured from the web and archived. The majority of the URLs in the sample are from government (.us or .gov) organization (.org) web domains.

Georgetown Law is a founding member of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, a digital preservation program established to preserve and ensure permanent access to vital legal information currently available in digital formats on the World Wide Web. Members include the Harvard Law School Library, the Maryland State Law Library and the Virginia State Law Library.

The Georgetown Law Library has taken a leadership role as an advocate for digital preservation. In 2003, it hosted a conference that resulted in the formation of the Legal Information Preservation Alliance, whose membership today includes more than 110 law libraries throughout the U.S. It explored the preservation of legal blogs at a 2009 symposium on the future of legal scholarship. The Library also recently established the Georgetown Law Dataverse archive to support the empirical research of Law Center faculty members, academic centers and institutes, and legal journals.

(Mike Frisch)

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Free Bite For Maryland Pit Bulls

A divided Maryland Court of Appeals has held that a premises owner with the right to control a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull dog is liable for damages caused by the dog's attack notwithstanding the absence of prior notice of the dog's attacking nature: "When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous."

The holding in essence creates strict liability for owners of dogs with some amount of pit bull in them. Among the cases cited by the majority is a bar discipline matter from Florida involving the use of pit bull imagery in lawyer advertising.

The court declined to opine on the impact of the opinion on Rottweiler attacks.

There is a dissent of three judges:

Today, the majority holds that a pit bull or any dog with a trace of pit bull ancestry (determined by what means the majority leaves us entirely in the dark) shall be deemed hence forth vicious and inherently dangerous as a matter of law.

A footnote in the dissent:

The majority opinion delivers an unenlightening and unworkable rule regarding mixed-breed dogs. How much "pit bull" must there be in a dog to bring it within the strict liability edict? How will that be determined? What rationale exists for any particular percentage of the genetic code to trigger strict liability? 

The dog at issue here was named Clifford (earlier Maryland pit bull cases involved dogs named Trouble and Rampage). Clifford escaped from a pen and attacked two boys. (Mike Frisch)

April 26, 2012 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Suspension For Indecent Assault

An attorney who was admitted to practice in 1973 and had no prior discipline has been suspended for a year and a day by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The attorney pled nolo contendere to the offense of indecent assault. The victim was his 18 year old niece by marriage. They attended a baseball game together.

He drove his car off the road, turned off the lights, "removed his glasses and put his arms around the victim and would not let go. He put his hand under the victim's shirt, first in back, then to her stomach. He put his hands up under her bra and felt her breast."

He had been charged in a 1984 incident involving the inappropriate touching of his own 14 year old daughter. The charges were dropped. He voluntatily resigned from his office as a common pleas as a result.

Although he has been in counselling since the more recent incident, he did not produce evidence that he suffers from a psychiatric disorder.

The court followed the recommendation of the Disciplinary Board. Several board members dissented and would stay the suspension with counseling conditions. (Mike Frisch)

April 26, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Crimes Draw Suspension

An attorney who engaged in misconduct caused by alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs has been suspended for six months with conditions by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The attorney's violations included matters involving his own criminal conduct:

2.  Self-Report Matter (04-379)

On March 23, 2004, Respondent was arrested for Criminal Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature ("CDVHAN") based on an altercation between Respondent and his girlfriend.  At the time of the incident, Respondent and his girlfriend began living together on and off for several months after separating from their respective spouses.  Respondent testified the charge arose out of his girlfriend's claim that Respondent "touched her [and] threw her down" during an argument.  Although Respondent admitted that he argued with his girlfriend, he denied ever "touching" her.  Respondent, however, took "full responsibility" for the situation.  Respondent attributed his actions to his addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. 

On November 5, 2004, Respondent was accepted into the Pre-Trial Intervention ("PTI") program.  He successfully completed this program on August 9, 2005.

In another criminal matter, Respondent pled guilty on April 9, 2010 to possession of unlawful prescription drugs, first offense. The offense, which occurred between May 8, 2008 and August 15, 2008, stemmed from Respondent knowingly obtaining a quantity of Oxycodone (a schedule II controlled substance) from two separate practitioners.  Respondent failed to inform the practitioners that he had received prescriptions for drugs of like therapeutic use in a concurrent time period from another practitioner.

As a result of his conviction, Respondent was sentenced to a term of six months' imprisonment, which was suspended without the imposition of probation.  Respondent, however, was assessed costs and ordered to complete substance abuse counseling and consent to random drug testing.

3.  Self-Report Matter (05-1490)

On November 9, 2005, Respondent was charged with one count of trespassing, two counts of simple assault, and one count of pointing and presenting a firearm.

The charges arose out of Respondent's attempted intervention into the relationship between his fifteen-year-old son and his son's girlfriend.  According to Respondent, his son ran away from home to stay at his girlfriend's home.  When Respondent went to the girlfriend's home in search of his son, an argument ensued that resulted in the girlfriend's parents initiating a charge of trespassing against Respondent.  A few days later, while still looking for his son, Respondent got into an argument with the girlfriend's parents, which resulted in the simple assault charges.  Following this incident, the girlfriend alleged that Respondent pointed a gun at her when he was inquiring about his son's whereabouts. 

On June 2, 2008, Respondent pled guilty to a charge of trespass and disorderly conduct.  The remaining charges were nolle prossed.

In another matter, the attorney violated his duty of confidentiality by giving discovery materials to his client's cellmate without permission.

A hearing panel had proposed an admonition with conditions. (Mike Frisch)

April 26, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unauthorized Communication, Conflict, Results In Suspension

The New York Appellate Division for the Fourth Judicial Department has suspended an attorney for six months and until further court order.

The attorney represented a client charged with offenses arising from a domestic dispute. The alleged victim also faced criminal charges from the same incident and was represented by counsel.

The attorney met with his client and the alleged victim without notice to opposing counsel. They told the attorney that they wished to live together in spite of orders of protection. He met with them several times and drafted affidavits for each of them to the effect that they were living together and wished to marry.

The affidavits were submitted to the prosecutor, who raised ethical concerns to the judge. The attorney then withdrew from the case.

The court found that the attorney had engaged in a conflict of interest and had communicated with a represented party.

The court considered the attorney's extensive disciplinary record of a letter of admonition, five letters of caution and a prior suspension for serious misconduct. (Mike Frisch)

April 25, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Not Obligated To Report Possible Crime

The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has a recent opinion:


Whether a Judge has an obligation under the Code of Judicial Conduct to report possible criminal activity the judge becomes aware of during judicial proceedings.



During a hearing concerning an unborn child, the inquiring judge learned that the parents of this child were 16 and 21 years old, revealing a probable sex crime by the 21-year old. Only the 16-year old was represented by counsel.


In JEAC Opinion 78-4, a majority of the committee concluded that although there is no obligation to report criminal behavior revealed during a hearing, neither is there any ethical prohibition, thus leaving the determination to the judge’s own discretion. That opinion also contains a discussion of the “misprision of felony” statute, but concluded that it did not apply to the judge.

We therefore conclude that a judge who becomes aware of possible or probable criminal acts during a judicial proceeding has no obligation under the Code to report them.

The Committee notes, however, that this opinion is limited to the judge’s obligations under the Code of Judicial Conduct. The broader question of whether the judge may or may not have a moral, statutory or other non-Code obligation to report information gained during a judicial proceeding is beyond the authority of this Committee.

Therefore, the Committee concludes that a judge who becomes aware of possible criminal activity as a result of information received during court proceedings has no duty under the Code to report the matter, and that the judge is no different than a lawyer, a litigant, or a member of the public attending the court event. The judge may voluntarily report the information, but the protections of Canon 3D(3) may not apply, and there may be further ethical consequences, such as disqualification, depending on the facts involved.

(Mike Frisch)

April 25, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Consent To Disbarment More Than A Pothole?

A divided Maryland Court of Appeals has reinstated a high-profile lawyer-lobbyist who had consented to disbarment after a conviction in California for criminal conspiracy, grand theft and commercial bribery.

The consent was entered while the conviction was pending. The conviction later was reversed and the criminal charges were not retried.

The court noted that disbarment is "not an immutable sanction" and that "a fallen lawyer may rise again."

The court relied on precedent involving former Governor Marvin Mandel. Madnel had been disbarred based upon a conviction that later was reversed. He did not consent to disbarment, so the reversal extinguished the basis of the disbarment.

The court majority held that, under the circumstance presented here, "his consent to disbarment does not amount to an admission of guilt." Bar Counsel had supported the reinstatement petition.

Judge Adkins' dissent states that 

The majority breezes by these [enumerated] record gaps as mere potholes on the road to [his] deserved reinstatement, but I am unpersuaded. The Maryland rules require anyone consenting to disbarment to admit a certain degree of misconduct, irrespective of any conviction in another state. Once that admission is made, I believe it incautious to allow a reversal of the conviction - in a separate proceeding - to conclusively silence a voluntary admission of guilt, especially when other bad acts potentially bearing on a disbarred attorney's overall character lurk in an undeveloped factual record.

Two judges joined the dissent as well as in a separate dissent by Judge McDonald.

The Daily Record has this earlier report.  (Mike Frisch)

April 25, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

From Supreme Court Winner To Convicted Felon

The Illinois Administrator has filed an amended complaint in a matter involving a criminal conviction in federal court.

The amended complaint alleges:

In 1974, Respondent took sexually explicit pictures of the 16 year-old sister, D.R., of his then-wife, Debra Peel. Respondent retained the pictures until 2006. In November 2003, Respondent and Debra obtained a dissolution of their marriage, which judgment included property division provisions. In July 2005, Respondent filed for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Illinois, case no. 05-33238. In the bankruptcy case, Respondent sought to discharge certain obligations to Debra, under the judgment of dissolution of their marriage, and listed Debra as a creditor. Debra filed an objection in the bankruptcy case to Respondent’s attempt to discharge his financial obligations to her. In January 2006, Respondent called Debra on the telephone, represented that he had had a sexual relationship with D.R., and further informed Debra that he had taken sexually explicit photographs of D.R. Respondent informed Debra if she did not abandon her challenge in the bankruptcy case and agree to a new financial settlement in their dissolution of marriage case, he would mail the pictures of D.R. to Debra’s parents. Later in 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigations retrieved copies of the pictures of D.R. from Respondent’s office.

On March 22, 2006, a federal grand jury, sitting in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, returned a four-count criminal indictment against Respondent, arising from his conduct as alleged in Paragraph 1, above. Count One of the indictment charged that Respondent engaged in bankruptcy fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 152(6). Count Two of the indictment charged Respondent with obstruction of justice, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2). Counts Three and Four of the indictment charged Respondent with possession of child pornography, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2252A(a)(5)(B). A copy of the indictment is attached as Exhibit 1.

On March 23, 2007, a jury convicted Respondent of all four counts of the indictment.

On November 19, 2007, Respondent was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. On February 12, 2010, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to the District Court with directions that the district judge vacate either the bankruptcy fraud conviction or the obstruction of justice conviction, and to resentence Respondent. On August 1, 2011, the District Court vacated the conviction for obstructing justice and resentenced Respondent to the same prison sentence as previously imposed, 14 years. A copy of the Amended Judgment is attached as Exhibit 2. On February 6, 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.

The charged attorney has another distinction - he is one of a very few attorneys who was found to have engaged in an ethics violation by a state high court who prevailed in the United States Supreme Court. The case involved the permissible use of a certified specialist designation.

News reports on the criminal case are linked here and here. (Mike Frisch)

April 25, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Say Uncle

An attorney charged with misusing a power of attorney obtained from his uncle (who was also his law partner) has been suspended for two years and until further order by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department:

In 1982, respondent joined the law practice of his uncle, Henry Isaacson, Esq., eventually becoming a partner. In 2001, Lee Snow, Esq. drafted Isaacson's will, which named respondent and Snow as co-executors and divided the estate in equal shares among his four siblings or their surviving issue per stirpes, which would have entitled respondent to an 8⅓% share. Snow also drafted a "Durable Power of Attorney Effective at a Future Time" (the POA) which granted enumerated powers to respondent if Isaacson became incapacitated in the future, to be effective if accompanied by documentation from a physician attesting to Isaacson's incapacity. Isaacson died on March 11, 2007.

The heart of the misconduct:

Here, in furtherance of his plan to change title to Isaacson's accounts for his own benefit, respondent falsely told Snow that he needed the POA to reinstate dormant HSBC [bank] accounts. He then misused the POA, without first obtaining a medical certification as to Isaacson's incapacity, to transfer approximately $600,000 of Isaacson's money to himself during the weeks before Isaacson's death. Respondent returned the funds to Isaacson's estate only after he was removed as co-executor by the Surrogate's Court, conceivably to avoid a potential charge of intentional conversion in violation of DR 1-102(A)(4) that could have subjected him to disbarment...Respondent then compounded this misconduct by testifying falsely that he had permission to make the transfers, which gives rise to the inference that he likely suborned false testimony by Steinberg. This aggravating factor is not outweighed by respondent's testimony as to the pressures he was under caring for his uncle, raising four young children and attending to his practice, all while his wife was away for extended periods in Canada caring for her critically ill mother, or by his religious and charitable activities within the Orthodox Jewish community.

(Mike Frisch)

April 24, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Convicted Judge Removed From Office

The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline has ordered the removal from office of former judge Michael Conahan, who was convicted in the notorious "kids for cash" scandel in Luzerne County. The order prohibits him from holding future judicial office.

The court's opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

April 24, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

In Rod He Trusted

The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint against the former chief of staff of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The charges are based on the attorney's guilty plea to wire fraud:

In his plea agreement, Respondent admits that from October 2008 through December 9, 2008, he participated with Blagojevich in a scheme to deprive the people of the State of Illinois of the intangible right to honest services. (Exh. 2, p.2) Blagojevich, Respondent and others sought to obtain financial benefits for Blagojevich and his wife in return for the exercise of Blagojevich's duty under Illinois law to appoint a United States Senator to fill the vacancy created by the election of President Obama. (Id., pp. 2-3) As detailed in the plea agreement, Respondent assisted Blagojevich's efforts by suggesting means by which Blagojevich could secure personal benefits for himself. (Id., pp. 2-3)

Shortly before and immediately after the November 4, 2008 election of President Obama, Blagojevich's discussions with Respondent about his appointment of a replacement Senator became more frequent and more detailed. (Exh. 2, p.4) Respondent knew of Blagojevich's discussions with a small group of internal and external advisors about the issue. (Id.) Blagojevich made it clear to Respondent that Blagojevich was not focused on what was in the best interest of the People of the State of Illinois, but instead was focused on what Blagojevich could personally obtain for himself in exchange for the Senate appointment. (Id.)

 Around the time of the November 4, 2008 election, Respondent learned that an individual identified as Senate Candidate B was interested in the Senate seat. (Id.) Blagojevich discussed with Respondent that he wanted to use Senate Candidate B's interest in the Senate seat as a way to get something for himself from President-elect Obama. (Id.) Initially Blagojevich wanted to be appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services ("HHS"). On or about November 6, 2008, Blagojevich met with an individual identified as Service Employees International Union ("SEIU") Official A who had been presented to Blagojevich and Respondent as working on behalf of President-elect Obama to fill the Senate seat. (Id.) Prior to the meeting, Respondent helped Blagojevich strategize as to how to ask SEIU Official A for the HHS position in exchange for making Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Id.) After the meeting, Blagojevich told Respondent that he had asked SEIU Official A for the HHS position in exchange for the appointment of Senate Candidate B as Senator. (Id., p.5)

During the discussions with Respondent, Blagojevich expressed interest in obtaining an ambassadorship from President-elect Obama in exchange for making Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Id.) On November 5, 2008, Blagojevich told Respondent and Deputy Governor A to research the ambassadorship options for him as well as to research private foundations where Blagojevich might be able to get a high-paying position in exchange for making Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Exh. 2, p. 5) Respondent explained to Blagojevich the reasons Respondent believed that the private foundation option was preferable to the ambassadorship. (Id., pp. 5-6)

Respondent admits in the plea agreement that in another conversation with Blagojevich, after Blagojevich asked Respondent to develop a union based option, Respondent presented Blagojevich with an idea by which Blagojevich could become the national coordinator of an organization called "Change to Win," which was associated with a number of labor unions, including SEIU. (Id., p. 6.) Respondent suggested that Blagojevich could obtain the Change to Win position through SEIU Officials A and B, in exchange for Blagojevich agreeing to appoint Senate Candidate B the Senator. (Id.) Respondent explained the benefits of this plan to Blagojevich, which Respondent stated included the President's favorable view of SEIU during his administration, keeping Blagojevich politically viable, providing Blagojevich with union support and a paid position. (Id., pp. 6-7)

As Respondent admits in the plea agreement, on November 7, 2008, Respondent participated in a conference call with Blagojevich and another person, Advisor A, in which the Change to Win idea was again discussed. (Id., p. 8) Respondent explained the idea to Advisor A at Blagojevich's request. (Id.) Respondent understood during the call that in his analysis of who to name to the Senate seat, Blagojevich was interested in obtaining money for himself and maintaining his own political viability. (Id.)

Respondent also admits in his plea agreement that after Senate Candidate B obtained a position with the White House, Blagojevich pressed Respondent to talk to an individual identified as Senate Candidate D about benefits to Blagojevich in exchange for the appointment to the seat which included Blagojevich's receipt of Candidate D's remaining campaign funds in exchange for the Senate seat. (Exh. 2, p.9) On November 12, 2008, Respondent met with Senate Candidate D. (Id., p.10) Respondent discussed with Candidate D, that individual's plans for his campaign funds that could not be converted to personal use. (Id., p. 10)

Respondent admits in the plea agreement that, in another conversation on December 4, 2008, Blagojevich told Respondent that through a third party, Senate Candidate A had offered to raise $1.5 million in campaign funds for Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate appointment. (Id., p.10) Although Respondent told Blagojevich that the offer to raise funds should not factor into his decision, it was clear to Respondent that a large part of Blagojevich's motivation for appointing Senate Candidate A to the Senate was the offer of campaign funds. Blagojevich had previously dismissed Senate Candidate A as a potential appointee, and Respondent believed that Blagojevich had changed course was considering Senate Candidate A because of the offer of money. (Id., pp. 10-11)

(Mike Frisch)

April 24, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)