Friday, April 19, 2024

"Lay Off The Trendy Feminist Baloney"

The New Mexico Supreme Court has publicly censured an attorney for conduct toward an opposing counsel

This disciplinary matter involves, in part, separate hearings in three separate criminal cases for which Respondent was the defense attorney; the same female prosecutor was on all three cases. First, during a hearing in March 2022, as the prosecutor examined a law enforcement officer, Respondent objected based on hearsay; before the judge responded, Respondent said to the prosecutor: “Do you know what that is . . . ?” Later, Respondent accused the prosecutor of not understanding the rules of evidence or trial practice. Later still, he accused the prosecutor of not being “up to speed on the law.” After the judge said, “That’s enough, Mr. Costales,” Respondent argued with the judge.

Second, in another hearing later the same month, Respondent argued with a witness and again insulted the prosecutor. Third, during a hearing in June 2022, he again insulted the prosecutor, repeatedly argued with the judge, and accused the judge of bias.

After a hearing, Respondent told the same prosecutor off the record: “Go to hell.” Finally, he stated in an email to that prosecutor, “Lay off the trendy feminist baloney.”

The prosecutor filed the bar complaint.

On September 7, 2022, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the New Mexico Supreme Court Disciplinary Board brought formal charges against Respondent. The Hearing Committee of the Disciplinary Board held a hearing on the merits on January 5, 2023. On February 15, 2023, the hearing committee issued its proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommendation for discipline.

The hearing committee found that Respondent accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed that he needs professional mental health assistance. Indeed, Respondent admitted that his behavior was “entirely inappropriate.” He attributed his improper behaviors to his “stronger personality and [being] a zealous individual” and to personal problems.

The court

Respondent has two prior disciplinary offenses for similar misconduct. First, in January 2016, pursuant to a Conditional Agreement to Discipline by Consent, we imposed a two-year deferred suspension, including a condition that Respondent attend a CLE on civility, for repeatedly and improperly accusing a child support hearing officer of bias.

Second, in April 2021, Respondent received a formal reprimand from the Disciplinary Board for disrupting a court proceeding by repeatedly arguing with and interrupting the district court judge.

Yet despite those prior sanctions, Respondent has not learned the crucial lessons any lawyer should know.

Going forward

we will not be so lenient should Respondent repeat his unacceptable conduct. Respondent is given an opportunity to show that he can completely rehabilitate. Should Respondent repeat his harmful and improper behaviors, we will not hesitate to suspend or even permanently remove his license to practice law.

The prior public reprimand is linked here.

According to Martindale Hubbell, Respondent's office is located in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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