Friday, July 19, 2019
Joseph A. Hurley, a prominent Wilmington defense attorney known for his bravado and courtroom theatrics, was disciplined by the Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday for making sexually explicit remarks to state prosecutors and for disparaging a former client who had lodged a complaint against him.
Hurley, 75, was ordered by the court to enroll in and pay for a professional training program within six months dealing with "respectful treatment of colleagues and opposing counsel" and "the need to refrain generally from inappropriate discussions of a sexual or religious nature" in his law practice. He also must pay the costs associated with an Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigation against him, which led to the public reprimand.
Court records show that Hurley, who was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1970, was placed on private probation for an undisclosed period in 2013 for violating professional rules related to client fees.
Hurley, who has an adult daughter and lives with a longtime companion, did not respond to a request for comment until Friday — the day after The News Journal posted the story online. He said that the previous probation was for one year and related to him prematurely depositing an extra $237 in client fees into his account.
As a former Delaware deputy attorney general in the 1970s, Hurley said he has enjoyed close friendships with state prosecutors both in and outside the office who understand his "raw racy sexual innuendo humor." He explained that he works into the early morning hours and "sometimes I get delirious."
"I would never say something to hurt somebody deliberately," he said, adding that he plans to attend "charm school" as soon as possible.
In two separate petitions filed in 2016, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the Supreme Court that investigates lawyer misconduct, accused Hurley of violating the Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct.
Specifically, the ODC accused Hurley of making "disparaging or demeaning remarks to and about four different Deputy Attorneys General" in correspondence to the prosecutors, and, in one instance, to the Superior Court. This occurred despite multiple attempts by senior deputy attorneys general to alert Hurley to his "inappropriate and unprofessional correspondence," according to court records.
Here the contempt involved repeated failures to timely appear before the court "despite reminders and warnings." He was not entitled to a jury trial. (Mike Frisch)