Monday, October 7, 2019

Georgia Disbars Attorney For Conduct Toward Former Client

The Georgia Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney whose assertion of a 5th Amendment privilege led to a bar proceeding default.

The misconduct

In summary, the facts as found by the special master based on Jefferson’s default show the following. Jefferson represented an individual from 2008 to 2010 in a custody modification action; during the representation, Jefferson and that individual were romantically involved. This relationship led to the filing of a disciplinary matter against Jefferson, but the matter was subsequently dismissed by this Court in 2014. During the pendency of that disciplinary matter, Jefferson’s former client began dating another woman and, following the dismissal of that matter, Jefferson hired a private investigator to conduct an investigation including surreptitious surveillance of the former client, his son, and the other woman. Additionally, Jefferson falsely disparaged the other woman to the woman’s employer, including making false and misleading statements about the custody proceeding.

Jefferson’s actions led the former client and the other woman to file applications for criminal warrants against Jefferson on charges of stalking and defamation. During the warrant proceedings initiated by the former client, Jefferson made false statements to the Magistrate Court of Houston County that she was bound to continue having contact with her former client due to being his attorney in a pending court case; that a visit to her former client in December 2014 was for legal purposes only; that the other woman was not supposed to have contact with the former client’s son; and that the former client’s and the other woman’s alcohol consumption was in violation of the final order granting the former client custody. During the warrant proceedings initiated by the other woman in the Magistrate Court of Fulton County, Jefferson submitted writings in response, some of them sworn, including baseless and disparaging statements about the former client and the other woman and false statements about her communications with them and others. Jefferson also filed two verified complaints against the Georgia Governor and Attorney General in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia challenging the constitutionality of the Georgia statutes authorizing the warrants described above. In the first complaint, she alleged that, as an attorney, she had conducted a child custody investigation involving the other woman, and that the other woman had filed a falsified police report seeking a warrant. The allegations were false, except for Jefferson being an attorney, and Jefferson knew they were false. After the first complaint was dismissed, Jefferson made similar false allegations in a second complaint. Jefferson also communicated directly with the other woman concerning the disputes between them, despite Jefferson’s knowledge that the woman was represented by counsel in connection with the warrant application as well as the bar grievance that she had made against Jefferson.

The court rejected her exceptions and challenges

We agree with the Review Board that these admitted facts support a finding that Jefferson violated Rules 3.3 (a) (1), 4.2 (a), and 8.4 (a) (4), a violation of any one of which is sufficient to support disbarment. Having reviewed the record, we agree with the Review Board that disbarment is the appropriate sanction.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2019/10/the-georgia-supreme-court-has-x-an-attorney-whose-assertion-of-a-5th-amendment-privilege-led-to-a-bar-complaint-default-the.html

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