Tuesday, May 18, 2021

D.C. Bar Discipline In Action

Anyone who wishes to watch a District of Columbia disciplinary prosecution has the opportunity this week in a matter scheduled to commence this morning at 9 am.

WUSA 9 reported on the charges

Twenty years to the week after one of the District's most notorious murders, there's a new development in the death of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

The former assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted Ingmar Guandique in 2010 for Levy's murder now face a rare ethics hearing for allegedly withholding evidence from Guandique's lawyers.

Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez will go before the Board of Professional Responsibility. If it rules against them, the Board could recommend a suspension of their license to practice law.
 
The hearing, scheduled for May 18, was first reported by the National Law Journal, which described it as "the latest test for bar regulators seeking to police the conduct of federal prosecutors as it pertains to their obligation to turn over information and evidence that could undermine assertions of a defendant’s guilt."
 
"If I did what prosecutors did, I would not have a license anymore, I wouldn't," veteran D.C. defense attorney Bernie Grimm said on the allegations against the two former prosecutors. "I've never experienced a US Attorney's Office, that has such indifference."
 
The former prosecutors are accused by the Office of Disciplinary Council [sic] of withholding key evidence from Guandique's defense attorneys, evidence that may have undermined the credibility of Armando Morales, a California gang member who testified that Guandique confessed to him to murdering Levy. Morales had previously been "debriefed" by investigators in another crime, and defense attorneys say they should have been made aware of that.
 
Lawyers for the prosecutors insist they did turn over the so-called "exculpatory" evidence. The lawyers added that even if they didn't, what their accusers are talking about was just "one sentence of one page" of 20,000 pages of discovery turned over to Guandique's defense.
Haines retired recently. She prosecuted dozens of cold murder cases in the District. Campoamor-Sanchez is currently working for the Securities and Exchange Commission.
 
"Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez denies the charges against him," his lawyer, Mark Lynch said in an email. "He respects the Board's process and looks forward to demonstrating that he acted appropriately."
 
A D.C. jury convicted Guandique on Nov. 22, 2010 of first-degree murder in Levy's death. Five years later, he won a new trial based on questions about Morales' testimony. A year after that, prosecutors decided against trying him again.
 
In May 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported him to his native El Salvador.
 
The case caused a firestorm in Washington in 2001 because Levy was having an affair with married congressman Gary Condit. Police suspicion fell quickly fell on him. But he was never charged and has always maintained he had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance.
 
But 20 years later, the tragic murder of a young woman who came to Washington hoping to make a difference is still roiling D.C.'s legal world.

The link to the zoom hearing can be found here.

Unfortunately, the Bar's disciplinary web page is a mess. I entered the names of both attorneys in the available places including "pending cases" and "search by name" functions and got this response 

0 Results for "amanda haines"

0 Results for "fernando campoamor-sanchez" 

Thus, we must rely on WUSA's article to post the charges.

Further, the hearing can only be viewed in real time as the hearing videos are not posted on the web page (another issue). 

My informal efforts to get the bar authorities to fix the information deficiencies about public disciplinary matters have failed entirely. Indeed, it appears that impeding access to public information is a feature, not a bug.

Simply put, it is quite possible to check a lawyer's pending and past disciplinary matters and be falsely assured there are none.

Liveblog: There are 65 viewers.

Disciplinary Counsel Phil Fox just completed his opening in which he argues that a prosecutor's failure to disclose is a more serious offense than misappropriation.

Unfortunately (or not, depending on one's point of view), sanction case law in D.C. does not support  that proposition.

Rae Woods of Covington & Burling now opening for Respondent Campoamor-Sanchez. Very effective use of multi-media.

Justin Dillon now up for Respondent Haines. Much more aggressive in attacking the approach of Disciplinary Counsel. His (presumably recused) partner is the Chair of the Board on Professional Responsibility. 

Chair Robert Bernius sustained an objection to a reference to findings of the Office of Professional Responsibility. 

First witness for Disciplinary Counsel is counsel for the defendant in the underlying criminal case Santha Sonenberg. 

Afternoon recap: Sonenberg testimony completed.

The cross-examination by Ms. Woods pursued the defense theory that the crucial first page of a three-page document was provided to the defense but somehow was misplaced after its receipt by attorneys or staff at the Public Defender Service. 

It is agreed that pages 2-3 (numbered as such) were provided and used by the defense at trial.

Cross-examination of trial co-counsel begins tomorrow at 9:30 am.

The number of watchers varied today but I'd guesstimate it was an average of around 70 viewers at any particular time  (Mike Frisch)

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