Wednesday, December 31, 2014

From White House To Big House

The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility has reached the rather unsurprising conclusion that a conviction for attempt to commit murder is a crime that inherently involves moral turpitude

Respondent was convicted of attempted murder, in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-49(a)(2)
(attempt) and § 53a-54a(a) (murder). The Court previously has held that murder for pecuniary gain, in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-54b (murder with special circumstances), is a crime of moral turpitude per se, because it requires proof of specific intent to cause the death of another person. In re Carpenter, 891 A.2d 223, 223 (D.C. 2006) (per curiam); see also Aron, Bar Docket No. 45-99 at 3-4 (solicitation to commit murder under Maryland law is a crime of moral turpitude per se,because it involves “deliberate, intentional taking of the life of another person”).

The attorney was former Bush Deputy White House Counsel  J. Michael Farren.

The attempt was against his former wife, who had been a Steptoe & Johnson associate.

In D.C., disbarment is required for a moral turpitude conviction.

Note: I prosecuted the bar discipline case involving Ruthann Aron.

I was disappointed that she consented to disbarment after the oral argument in the Court of Appeals on the moral turpitude issue, i.e. after all the work was done. In Aron, the offense was solicitation to commit murder. (Mike Frisch)

December 31, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Conviction Gone With The Wind

The Idaho Supreme Court has reversed a conviction as a result of prosecutorial misconduct in rebuttal closing argument.

The prosecutor

Ladies and gentlemen, when I was a kid we used to like to sing songs a lot. I always think of this one song. Some people know it. It’s the Dixie song. Right? Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton. Good times not forgotten. Look away. Look away. Look away.
The prosecutor proceeded to argue that the defense sought to have the jury "look away" from the evidence.
Remarkably, defense counsel did not object.
The case involved alleged sex crimes in which a black defendant was accused of offenses against white victims. (Mike Frisch)

December 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Third Party May Not Intervene In Bar Proceeding

A third party has no right to intervene in a bar discipline proceeding, according to a recent decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The attempt to intervene came from a former employee of an attorney accused of misconduct. The former employee claimed that the attorney and others (including assistant bar counsel) had engaged in a conspiracy to "vilify" him.

The full court affirmed the decision of a single justice that the disciplinary proceedings had concluded and that the appeal was moot.

The accused attorney (not named in this decision) received a suspension of six months and a day.

On the merits, the court held that civil procedure rules that allow for intervention do not apply in bar discipline matters. (Mike Frisch)

December 26, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Usury Unfriendly

An Illinois attorney who operated a consumer lending business is the subject of a bar complaint alleging that he charged criminally usurious loans to his customers.

Between March 2011 and October 2012, Respondent, as sole owner and operator of Bell Funding, extended approximately 125 loans to consumers with interest rates ranging from 100% to 300%...

...the Division of Financial Institutions of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued a cease and desist order to Bell Funding which required it to cease and desist offering, making, or arranging consumer loans because it had never obtained the required state license to make consumer loans under the Consumer Installment Loan Act

The Illinois Administrator charged the attorney with engaging in criminal conduct in violation of state usury law.

He also is charged with false statements to tribunals in 20 lawsuits against borrowers.

In or about February 2012, Respondent began including an arbitration clause in the Bell Funding loan documents, under which Bell Funding could request neutral binding arbitration if any borrower was in default, and if Bell Funding chose arbitration, the borrower gave up the right to a trial in court. Between March 2012 and October 2012, Bell Funding requested an arbitration hearing for approximately 20 Bell funding loans in which the borrowers had defaulted. In the requests for arbitration, Respondent designated the Bell Funding arbitration hearings to take place at the [his] office suite, and arranged for an arbitrator to be available to attend if any borrower appeared for the arbitration hearing. No borrowers appeared for any arbitration hearings, and Respondent prepared an arbitration award in favor of Bell Funding which Respondent then sent to the arbitrator and which the arbitrator then entered...

In each of the Bell Funding lawsuits, Respondent did not disclose to the court that no actual arbitration hearing ever took place. Each of the arbitration awards which Respondent sought to confirm in the Bell Funding lawsuits stated "after having duly heard the proofs and allegations of the parties" before an award in favor of Bell Funding was entered by the arbitrator...

In each of the 20 Bell Funding lawsuits, Respondent obtained a judgment on behalf of Bell Funding and initiated collection proceedings, including wage garnishment proceedings, as lawyer for Bell Funding.

Note that the charges do not indicate that the attorney was charged or convicted. A conviction is not required to sustain a Rule 8.4(b) violation. (Mike Frisch)

December 25, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Neither New York Or Florida

A bar applicant who graduated from law school in 2008 and passed the bar examination in Florida and New York was denied admission by the New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department.

He had previously been denied admission in Florida, where he resides.

The court's rather terse decision quotes findings of is Committee on Character and Fitness that the applicant demonstrated "disregard for applicable rules" and an "apparent tendency to use the courts as a tool for personal vindication and retribution" rather than for legitimate purposes. (Mike Frisch)

December 24, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Turn In Your Playbook

A 30-day suspension with fitness has been imposed by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals based on findings that the attorney violated Rules 3.1 and 8.4(d) through a pattern of baseless and frivolous litigation.

Because there was no harm to the client, the court rejected findings that the attorney had provided incompetent representation.

The attorney had represented the complaining witness in a criminal assault case. The defendant was acquitted at a bench trial.

The frivolous litigation came in the acquittal's wake.

He filed a post-verdict motion for mistrial on behalf of the complainant. He moved fpr reconsideration after the motion was denied. Throughout the litigation, he repeatedly sought recusal of the judge.

He appealed the verdict.

The Court of Appeals affirmed and referred both the attorney and defense counsel to Bar Counsel for investigation.

The same court here found that the litigation itself and the voluminous motions were frivolous in light of the Double Jeopardy clause.

The behavior violated the defendant's right "to be free of further legal entanglement with respect to the charged assault."

When the bar investgated on the court's referral, the pattern persisted.

The attorney sought to remove the disciplinary case to federal court. He sought recusal of Assistant Bar Counsel Hamilton "Phil" Fox.

After the Board on Professional Responsibility issued its report , he sued the BPR, its Executive Attorney, Assistant Bar Counsel Fox and the Clerk of the D.C. Court of Appeals in federal court seeking injunctive relief.

While the court did not consider the litigation brought against the disciplinary system as free-standing misconduct, it treated the pattern as highly significant to its determination to impose a fitness requirement.

The court noted that the attorney was "still using the same playbook" after receiving "considerable feedback" about his over-the-top litigation tactics. Fitness was required because the "ingrained pattern of [his] litigation tactics" had burdened local and federal courts.

A hearing committee had found no misconduct because the attorney was misguided but sincere in his beliefs. According to the attorneys on the hearing committee

In litigation, half of the lawyers are always wrong. In many cases, their arguments may even approach the laughable. By and large, lawyers simply are not sanctioned for being wrong, no matter how wrong they may be. As the quoted material above indicates, even being very wrong must be accompanied by something more, namely some malevolent purpose.

Notably, the non-attorney member of the hearing comittee got it right in dissent (my blog post linked here).

The BPR found violations and recommended a 90-day suspension with fitness.

The case is also notable with respect to the history of Phil Fox. It's the first decision he has gotten from the court in a disciplinary case.

Phil started at Bar Counsel in March 2011. He's an active and diligent litigator who promptly investigates and prosecutes his cases.

It is a sad reflection on the glacial pace of D.C. bar discipline that it took more than 3 1/2 years for him to move a single case from soup to nuts. (Mike Frisch)

December 24, 2014 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lawyer, Serve Thyself

The California State Bar Court Review Department has recommended disbarment of an attorney for fee-collection misconduct.

 The gravamen of the misconduct in this matter involves Felger’s dishonest acts in obtaining a fraudulent default judgment against his former client, Central Green Mutual Water Company (Central Green). He accomplished this by serving a lawsuit for his legal fees on himself on behalf of his former client, but without the client’s knowledge or consent.

The court

 Although Felger concedes he is culpable, he argues in his opening brief that his misconduct was just a "petty stunt meant to get Larry Freels’ attention, not an attempt to collect a surreptitious judgment." His argument is not persuasive. If Felger wished merely to get Freels’s attention, he could have served the lawsuit for his legal fees on Freels in the first instance. Instead, we find that Felger’s trial testimony exposed his true motive. When asked why he concealed the lawsuit from Freels, Felger testified: "I wanted to fix and -- liquidate the amount [of attorney fees] as promptly and with as little effort as possible. And I knew that [Freels] would not receive notice of it, and I knew that if he did want to fight me, that he would not then have that opportunity." Further, when asked why he did not remove himself as agent for service of process, he replied: "It was certainly the most expeditious way to obtain that judgment." Felger’s attempt to minimize his misconduct reveals he does not comprehend his ethical duty to be honest.

The State Bar Court found misappropriation in an unrelated matter and proposed disbarment despite the attorney's 25 years of discipline-free practice. Mike Frisch)

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

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

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)