Friday, August 10, 2018
Chest Bumps and Fitness To Practice
The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board proposes a year and a day suspension for an in-chambers assault on opposing counsel.
On March 19, 2015, respondent, Felix DeJean, IV, appeared in the chambers of Judge Kathy Johnson of the Seventh Judicial District Court in [Concordia] Parish for a conference in the case of State of La. v. Perry Williams. Also present were the District Attorney, Bradley Burget, Assistant District Attorney Ann Siddall, and the court's clerical assistant, Julie Colclasure.
At the conclusion of the conference, the parties were leaving the judge's chambers when respondent exchanged words with the District Attorney, physically confronted him and "chest bumped" Mr. Burget twice, perpetrating a battery upon the District Attorney. To prevent further assault, Mr. Burget asserts that he grabbed respondent and restrained him until court personnel could remove him from the judge's chambers.
Respondent was later arrested and booked on charges of assault, simple battery, and threatening a public officer.
On July 14, 2016, a trial on the criminal charges of simple battery was held at the Concordia Parish Courthouse in Vidalia before Justice Chet D. Traylor, who was sitting pro tempore by appointment of the Louisiana Supreme Court. At the conclusion of testimony and closing argument of counsel, Justice Traylor found the respondent, Felix DeJean, IV, guilty as charged of simple battery of District Attorney Bradley Burget.
The board affirmed the findings.
Here, Respondent’s misconduct is most similar to that in Greenburg. He committed a battery upon another attorney in the presence of a judge. However, this case involves more significant aggravating factors than were present in Greenburg, primarily Respondent’s disciplinary history. This is the third disciplinary matter in which the misconduct is related to Respondent’s failure to control his anger. Given this history, the Board finds that a one year and one day suspension, with no period of deferral, is warranted. This suspension will require Respondent to establish his fitness by clear and convincing evidence before returning to the practice of law.
Louisiana Record reported that the Respondent filed a civil suit in connection with the incident.
In 2015 DeJean was recognized as a Top 100 trial lawyers in the nation by the National Trail [sic] Lawyers. In 2013 and 2014, he was recognized by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys as one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Louisiana. He was admitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association in October 1997.
According to the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, DeJean has been disciplined twice in his 18 years as a member. In April 2010 he was disciplined for notarizing a document without first checking the identification of the parties involved. In January 2014 he was disciplined for conduct that was “prejudical to the administration of justice.”
A 2013 Board recommendation for a reprimand recounted an earlier incident
On August 26, 2011 Mitch and Mike Kimble and their attorney, John Madison, met Mr. Dejean and his clients, Shane and Jonathan Grimmett, at Mr. Dejean's law office to attempt to settle a civil construction dispute between the Kimbles and the Grimmetts. About an hour into the meeting Mr. Dejean's demeanor changed, and he made a remark to the Kimbles to the effect that he (Mr. Dejean) was like Pontius Pilate and was going to crucify the Kimbles, or that he (Mr. Dejean) was going to act like Pontius Pilate and the nail driving five. At that time Mr. Madison stood up and advised his clients, the Kimbles, that it was time to leave. Mr. Dejean then stood, began yelling profanities, and made loud and forceful threats of physical violence toward the Kimbles. Mr. Dejean has a self admitted history of physical altercations and behaviors related to medical and substance abuse problems.
Several Board members dissented and would dismiss the charges, as the hearing committee had proposed. (Mike Frisch)