Tuesday, November 12, 2019
A Louisiana Hearing Committee recommends a public reprimand of an attorney
You, IKE SPEARS, Louisiana Bar Roll Number 17811, are a fifty-seven-year-old Louisiana licensed attorney, admitted to the practice of law in Louisiana on October 10, 1986, after graduating from Tulane Law School. You do not have a prior disciplinary record.
You represented Ron Edwards in a criminal matter entitled State of Louisiana us. Ron Edwards. Iain Dover was the ADA representing the State of Louisiana. Judge Robin Pittman of the Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans presided over the case.
During a court appearance on August 20, 2018, you and Mr. Dover engaged in an inappropriate verbal exchange in open court. After several exchanges, you threatened to "punch the shit out of" Mr. Dover. The transcript reflects that you then raised a fist toward Mr. Dover, and Mr. Dover responded by raising his arm in a blocking motion. You stated that you "can settle this outside the courtroom." Judge Pittman then called both you and Mr. Dover into her chambers, after which, you each apologized for your conduct.
On May 6, 2019, the Louisiana Supreme Court sanctioned Mr. Dover with a public reprimand for his conduct in this encounter.
There is clear and convincing evidence you have knowingly and intentionally violated Rules 3.5(d) and 8.4(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
During argument on the State’s motion, Respondent stated to the Judge that the victim, Mr. Edwards’ girlfriend, had on a prior occasion brought false charges against Mr. Edwards and ultimately pled guilty to filing a false police report. In response to Respondent’s statement about the victim, Mr. Dover stated:
Excuse me, sir. You’re a liar.
Mr. Spears responded:
And I will punch the shit out of you if you call me a liar, again.
Mr. Dover doubled down, after being challenged by Respondent to call me a liar again,
At this point in the transcript of the August 20, 2018 hearing, the court reporter wrote:
(Raises fist up to Mr. Dover)
(Raises arm up in a blocking motion)
Finally, Respondent stated:
…but perhaps we can settle this outside the courtroom.
The record reflects that Judge Pittman called each into her chambers, separately, for a brief discussion, and, after returning to the courtroom, both Respondent and Mr. Dover apologized for their conduct. Judge Pittman then concluded the hearing without further difficulty.
The raised fist was disputed
Mr. Dover testified that Mr. Spears did in fact raise his fist and that he, Dover, was afraid that Respondent was about to hit him. He acknowledged calling Respondent a liar in open court, that such an accusation was improper and that he was disciplined by his employer for doing so.
Judge Pittman testified that she recalled Mr. Spears’ arm going up, but could not recall if he made a fist or not. She did recall Mr. Dover putting his arm up in a blocking motion. She did not hold either in contempt, and both apologized to her. The incident lasted only a minute or two, and, at most, she spent “less than 10 minutes” talking to both of them in chambers.
Common sense dictates that an attorney must know that his actions will disrupt the court if he, during the course of a hearing or trial, threatens to “punch the shit” out of opposing counsel, even if arguably he was provoked by opposing counsel. To hold otherwise would provide an excuse to any attorney engaging in such behavior by simply saying, in effect, “I did it, I know it was wrong, but I didn’t intend to do it”.
Respondent’s conduct, as was Mr. Dover’s, was prejudicial to the administration of justice. It caused a delay, although minimal, in Judge Pittman’s docket. Perhaps more importantly, the conduct occurred in an open hearing, with the public present.