Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent 5 year suspension of a Virginia lawyer who was previously suspended for 6 months in 2015 for disrupting a CLE seminar and suspended for 3 years in 2016 when he failed to undergo treatment required pursuant to the 2015 suspension. The 6 month suspension Order dated March 27, 2015 is here: http://www.vsb.org/docs/Hartke-050615.pdf and the 3 year suspension Order dated October 27, 2016 is here: http://www.vsb.org/docs/Hartke-110416.pdf.
According to the Virginia State Bar website, “on August 25, 2017, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board suspended Wayne Richard Hartke’s license to practice law for five years effective October 27, 2019, for violating professional rules that govern candor toward the tribunal. The suspension will be consecutive to a three-year suspension issued on October 27, 2016.”
According to the March 27, 2015 Disciplinary Board Order, the lawyer was intoxicated and disruptive at a Continuing Legal Education program. Witnesses at the CLE seminar said that the lawyer was sleeping and loudly snoring during the morning session and then yelling at the video screen during the afternoon session. A witness also said he smelled of alcohol and had a bottle of liquor with him at the seminar. The lawyer was led from the seminar room by another person attending the seminar.
The lawyer was suspended for six months for that CLE disruption and for “failing to correct misrepresentations that he made to the Virginia State Bar during the disciplinary proceedings”. The Order also required him to enroll in a two-year treatment and monitoring program stated that any notice of noncompliance would result in an order to show why his license should not be suspended for an additional three years. According to the October 27, 2016 disciplinary Order, the lawyer failed to comply with the terms of the 2015 Order. He also failed to show up for the disciplinary hearing. The Disciplinary Board found that the violation was proven and suspended the lawyer for three (3) years, effective October 27, 2016.
The lawyer had previously been reprimanded in 2010 after settling a legal malpractice lawsuit which alleged that he failed to protect the interests of the members of the board of directors of a corporate client. He was reprimanded again in 2011 when he was held in contempt and served 10-day jail sentence after his blood alcohol content was found to be .127 during a court appearance.
Bottom line: According to the facts set forth in the disciplinary Orders, this lawyer has some serious and ongoing issues with both alcohol and candor. The ultimate result was a 5 year suspension effective October 27, 2019 after he completes his current 3 year suspension and, unless that suspension is modified, it will continue until October 27, 2024.
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150
Clearwater, Florida 33761
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670